Great Movies #2: M


Just begin to write and then some guy starts talking. It’s a music podcast. Music. Anyway, my second effort at ripping off Ebert. An unofficial decision to write more often, I seem to have a lot on my mind. A need to organise things and “share” them.


I really loved this movie. The first thriller perhaps. But what does that mean? Surely the best movies aren’t merely good by virtue of influence. Well, this movie is awesome all by itself and you can see why it was imitated. It’s impressive how many clichés of those darker movie genres are essentially introduced in M, as far as I know. Except here they work, they’re fresh. It’s interesting how the original movie in a series always has that vibrant quality because it was actually new ground at the time. It just comes across. Modern thrillers date instantly compared to this masterpiece.

Peter Lorre. Really cool. Creepy sort of character but you can kind of relate to him.  Everyone has parts of themself they don’t necessarily like or feel they can control, but it’s just a part of them. Like many great characters, he’s an exagerrated version of everyone. He’s like the Joker, really edgy but easy to understand his twisted logic. He’s openly tormented. I’m only repeating what Ebert said but it’s strange that there’s no mystery about the villain from the start. It’s not about that. Not one of those stupid whodunnits where everyone acts unnecessarily suspiciously just so the director can pull anything off at the end. That’s not insightful or satisfying. Much cooler to lay everything out at the beginning and then let it play out.

There are many parallels with The Dark Knight. Even the criminals don’t like this psycho. They plan just as the police do. But Lorre questions who is truly evil, the guy who was born crazy and can’t help it or the countless citizens that allow rampant corruption to thrive. The underground is expansive. They have a choice. Their evil is more subtle but perhaps far more harmful in the long run.

Fritz Lang also famously directed Metropolis, another awesome movie. German expressionism, fool. Really like those shadows and images. M uses the full screen in a way most movies forget was even possible. I didn’t find it boring in the slightest. It uses the language of film directly, much of the story is told without dialogue. Very efficiently. Provocative images, letting you figure things out. Haunting you with ideas that won’t leave you easily. It isn’t minimalist, it just doesn’t waste time with the kind of nonsense exposition most films depend so heavily on.

In general, it takes what you’re normally used to in movies and turns everything upside down. Many movies cross lines. But most of them don’t know where to go from there. They get lost, they chicken out, they’re over-ambitious and don’t have an over-arching plan or point. M takes us into the life of a killer and gives us an unexpected explanation. That’s just the way he is. We want some happy resolution but there is none. No good guys and bad guys. No hero, no victory. Just a series of images and questions. This is a perfect example of less is more. It’s very suggestive but barely shows anything. We do all the work. But it’s exquisitely clear in what’s happening. We know everything we need to know.

I can’t think of much else. I only know Lorre and Lang. Look forward to learning more about it. I remember he whistles Grieg. I remember various images and information about how the plot unfolds. The finale is pretty affecting and powerful (near synonyms). Haven’t seen it in ages. I hate when people talk about perfection in art. There’s no such thing. This movie’s just awesome because the acting is great and the design and story are really going for something. It doesn’t compromise, that’s what I like about it. It stands alone, open-ended for all to admire.


About karnok

A legendary ninja.
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