The film follows the story of Hans Beckert, played by Peter Lorre, a serial killer who terrorizes the city of Düsseldorf by killing children. The police are on his trail, but fail to catch him. Meanwhile, the city’s criminals organize to capture the monster and have it executed.
“M” was acclaimed for its innovative direction and its use of sound, which was one of the first films to use it significantly. Furthermore, the film deals with important social issues such as justice and the psychology of criminals.
The character of Hans Beckert has become one of the most iconic in cinematic history, and the film has often been cited as one of the influences for the modern thriller genre. “M” is a masterpiece of German cinema and a seminal work in the history of world cinema.
The plot of “M” follows the story of Hans Beckert, a serial killer who terrorizes the city of Düsseldorf by killing children. The police, led by Inspector Lohmann, are on his trail, but fail to capture him.
Meanwhile, the city’s criminals organize to capture the monster and have it executed. Their plan is to use a network of informants to identify the culprit, and then capture and try him in a makeshift “court”.
Beckert is eventually captured and brought before the court of criminals, where he is convicted and sentenced to death. But just as the criminals are about to carry out the sentence, the police arrive and save him, taking him to court for a proper trial.
In the finale, Beckert is sentenced to death for his crimes, but Lang uses the scene to explore the character’s emotions and psychology, showing his guilt and despair before execution.
The film is known for its innovative direction and its use of sound, which was one of the first films to make significant use of it. Furthermore, the film deals with important social issues such as justice and the psychology of criminals.
Here are the main characters of the movie “M”:
- Hans Beckert: played by Peter Lorre, he is the serial killer who terrorizes the city of Düsseldorf by killing children.
- Inspector Lohmann: played by Otto Wernicke, he is the leader of the police team trying to capture Beckert.
- Fraulein Beckmann: played by Ellen Widmann, she is a mother who lost her daughter to Beckert and becomes part of the criminal organization to catch him.
- The criminalist: played by Gustaf Gründgens, he is one of the criminals who helps to capture Beckert.
- The director: played by Fritz Odemar, he is the leader of the professional assassins who organize the court to try Beckert.
- Elsie Beckmann: played by Inge Landgut, she is Beckert’s first victim and Fraulein Beckmann’s daughter.
These characters represent a variety of perspectives on killer hunting and justice. The film explores their interaction and motivations, providing a complex portrait of the social dynamics of 1930s Germany.
“M” is a 1931 film directed by German director Fritz Lang. The production of the film was handled by the German film company Nero-Film, with a relatively modest budget.
The film was shot entirely in Germany, mostly in Berlin. Lang used a lot of location shooting, which lent a realistic feel and sense of authenticity to the story.
One of the film’s most important innovations was the use of sound. “M” was one of the first films to make significant use of sound, with sound effects and an original soundtrack adding to the effect of the film. The famous whistle tune, which Peter Lorre’s character whistles in the film, has become one of the most iconic soundtracks of the cinema history.
The film received an enthusiastic critical reception when it premiered in 1931. It was a commercial success in Germany and attracted the attention of international audiences. “M” has become a classic of cinema, influencing many directors and becoming a point of reference for the genre of thriller and film noir.
Distribution and Reception
“M” was released in Germany on May 11, 1931 by UFA, one of the leading German film companies of the time. The film was a great success with audiences and critics, and received several nominations for German film awards.
The film then received international distribution, becoming one of the first German films to achieve major success abroad. In the UK, the film was released as ‘The Murderer Among Us’ and in the US as ‘M – A City Searches for a Murderer’. The US version of the film was edited to remove some scenes that were deemed too violent or immoral.
“M” received rave reviews from international critics, who praised Fritz Lang’s innovative direction and Peter Lorre’s memorable performance as Hans Beckert. The film was also appreciated for its ability to address important social issues, such as justice and the psychology of criminals.
Today, “M” is regarded as one of the masterpieces of German cinema and one of the most important films in the history of cinema. It was named to Sight & Sound magazine’s list of the best films of all time, and was included in the United States National Film Registry’s list of films to be preserved.
“M” is an innovative and stylistically advanced film for its time. Director Fritz Lang used innovative filmmaking techniques to create an atmosphere of tension and suspense.
One of the film’s defining elements is the use of split editing, which consists of rapidly switching between different shots to create a sense of frenzy and movement. This technique was especially used in scenes where the police try to catch the killer, creating a sense of urgency and drama.
Furthermore, the film features a number of strong and symbolic images. For example, the killer’s whistle has become an iconic symbol in the film and represents the threat Beckert poses to the city. At the same time, the film deals with important topics such as the psychology of crime and justice, through the representation of characters such as Hans Beckert and the court of murderers.
The film’s original score was also innovative for its time, using the leitmotif to associate a specific melody with each character in the film. Beckert’s famous whistle tune has become an iconic image in the history of cinema.
Overall, the style of “M” has had a lasting impact on cinematography. The film pioneered the use of sound and editing, and influenced many subsequent directors in the genres of thriller and film noir.
Historical and Cultural Context
The historical and cultural context in which “M” was made is extremely important in understanding the meaning of the film. The period in which the film was made, the 1930s, was characterized by the global economic crisis and the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany.
Germany in the 1930s was a deeply divided and unstable society, in which poverty, unemployment and inflation had caused serious social problems. The rise of Nazism and the promise of a new social, economic and political order had attracted widespread popular support.
Fritz Lang’s film reflects this instability and the collective anguish of German society in the 1930s. The city depicted in the film is a dark, claustrophobic and oppressive place where the threat of crime and fear of the unknown are omnipresent.
The character of Hans Beckert, the killer played by Peter Lorre, has been seen as a metaphorical representation of the threat posed by Nazism in Germany. The film also addressed important issues such as justice and accountability, which were particularly relevant at a time when Germany was looking for a new political and moral direction.
Furthermore, the film represented a milestone in the evolution of German and world cinema, having been one of the first films to use sound in a meaningful and innovative way. Film’s ability to harness sound technology influenced many subsequent productions and demonstrated the potential of cinema as a powerful and dynamic medium of communication.
The director of “M” was Fritz Lang, one of the most important and influential directors in the history of cinema. Lang was born in Vienna in 1890 and grew up in an artistic family. After serving in the Austrian army during World War I, he moved to Berlin, where his film career began.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Lang was one of the most important and prolific German directors, directing a series of films that have become classics of the German expressionist cinema. “M” was his first sound film and one of his most important works.
After the rise of Nazism in Germany, Lang left the country and moved to the United States, where he continued to make successful films for several decades. Among his most famous works are “Mabuse the Gambler” (1922), “Metropolis” (1927), “Fury” (1936), “The Big Heat” (1953) and “Dr. Mabuse” (1960).
Lang was an innovative and pioneering filmmaker known for his use of advanced filmmaking techniques, attention to detail, and his ability to create atmospheres of suspense and tension. It has influenced many subsequent directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, and its impact on German and world cinema was enormous.