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Daily Dose #1: The Nasty Man in Black (The Opening Scene of Fritz Lang's M)


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The children's song establishes that "the man in black" is already a known threat in the neighborhood and world of the film. He has already killed, so as an audience, we're jumping into the middle of what's been happening. The song also gives the audience information about the killer. The song is very foreboding, and even creepier when sung by children.

A sense of impending doom is further shown when the public school lets out. The entrance is surrounded by parents waiting for their children, and this is intercut with a mother preparing for her child to come home and her child walking home by herself. It's no surprise when something terrible happens.

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Good discussion. I think this film is a precursor to film noir because the nameless, disembodied shadow in the opening is "us!" It represents the dark side of human nature contained in all of us, the ordinary (as represented in the opening mundane scenes) and the masses (represented by the towering apartment buildings, the maze of staircases like the human heart). The "crime" need not be heinous, as here, but ANY compulsion, as confessed at the end of the film. Children represent innocence, their murder, the death of innocence, thus the introduction into film noir. 

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Such a great film to start with. This is exciting stuff.

I have read many great comments to this opening, and I particularly liked the one pointing out the innocence versus experience paradigm.

We can surely see and/or hear the embodiment of innocence (the children) and of experience (the women).

Men, however, do not seem to be neither innocent or experienced. In the second part of the opening sequence, we can see a group of parents waiting for their kids outside of the school entrance. In the middle, there is a man wearing a hat, separated from the rest, a bourgeois looking man, standing right there presumably waiting for his children. We don't get to see his face, but we get to notice his hat, strange coincidence? Anyway, the modest house-working women can't afford to go and pick up their kids at school. So their children, who must walk home by themselves, are the ones mostly in danger.

Then we see a policeman/traffic officer who, while halting the cars to facilitate her crossing the street, in fact is the one responsible for leading her to the assassin.

We see several people passing by, busy and unconcerned, a man assorted in reading the news, a few other people walking past, these are the people on the young girl's path to death. Repetitive on and off screen sound and movement originating from different sources (the clock, the bells, the horn, the ball) leads us to the shadow of the murderer on a printed poster. Is this the man who kills innocent lives while the rest pass by too busy with themselves to acknowledge and do something about it? But things are going to change.

In this incipit, all the carefully combined sound and visual elements have already highlighted the agents responsible for this crime. Who is the monstrous man in black threatening our new generation, and above all who is going to stop him?

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One thing that struck me was when the woman said to leave the children alone, at least as long as you heard them, you knew they were alright. And that moment you notice... you don't hear them anymore!

 

I noticed that too! And then the next noise you hear is the rapid alarm beeping of the cuckoo clock that's chiming an important time of day.

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One thing I noticed was that the opening keeps hinting at information before it reveals it, 

we hear the children before we see them, the camera pans to the balcony before any character enters it (causing me to tilt my phone in a attempt to get the camera to pan faster), we see the staircase before the woman climbs it, we see the school before we see school children, the girl bounces her ball against the poster before we get to read it, we see a silhouette before we get to see the murderer, who, of course we know he's the murderer because we've already heard the children and seen the poster.

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Because I teach students the age shown in the opening scene, I was reflecting on how much has not changed in the last 85 years.  This one comment struck me: 

 

Anyway, the modest house-working women can't afford to go and pick up their kids at school. So their children, who must walk home by themselves, are the ones mostly in danger. 

 

It is still true today. Those that can afford to be protected are.  Those that can't are easy to steal and do damage to.

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An interesting discussion. In pre-WWII Germany when "M" was made, Kurtl Weill and Bertholt Brecht were writing early dystopian musicals (Three Penny Opera, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogony) observing a society in which the only crime was to be poor. In America during this same time, gangster films were all the rage and Americans had a fascination with bank robbers. That good old American democratic spirit would soon fight the National Socialist Party (the Nazis), who came to power when the common folk DID sit by and do nothing, letting others watch their children (the Hitler youth), perhaps because they were so bedraggled pushing wheelbarrows of inflated currency to buy a loaf of bread (when they could get it) in Weimar Germany. "M" is an interesting precursor to this: looking for a scapegoat; mob mentality; bumbling police work; and finally the criminals working together to catch the killer who, in turn, pleads for mercy because of his compulsive illness, rather than accept responsibility ("I was only following orders."). 

Good to be having this discussion. America is again having a fascination with dystopian literature and films. I wonder what's next for the real world......

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M:

It starts with a seemingly innocent child’s game (like one potato two potato) being played in the yard.  The words are disturbing to the mother who yells at her child to stop but the children continue to sing the words which have no real meaning to them but the mother knows it is about the murderer.  The words are a foreshadowing.  The mother’ friend says “as long as you can hear them…”  It’s when you don’t hear the children that is when you start to worry (I remember my mother saying the same thing:  As long as I hear you, I know you are OK,  It’s when I don’t hear you that I worry that you are up to something).  Everyday life goes on as the women washes the clothes.  The mother is preparing the night’s meal.  The time passes as indicated by the coo coo  clock and the usual sounds of daily life.  The day is seemingly normal as the school bell rings and people go about their normal day.  There is no music which adds to the mundane feeling of ordinary life.

 

As the children are let out of school, one girl (Elsie) bounces her ball and heads for a information kiosk.  She playfully bounces the ball off the kiosk not paying attention or understanding the words on the sign.  The information on the post is revealed to us and we realize what the song is really about and the terrible circumstances that have occurred.  As we comprehend the meaning of the post (and the children’s song), a shadow appears over the sign and the man begins to talk to the girl.  We never see the man’s face but we know that he is the culprit that the police are looking for.  The child is completely without fear as she talks to the stranger but we fear for the girl’s life.  The ball stops bouncing as he asks her name, she answers … face to black … the end is near.

 

The use of the shadow is very menacing and much more effective then showing the murder’s face.  The anonymity of the Murdered and the foreshadowing of the child’s death adds to the to the horror and mystery that peaks our curiosity.  The mundane has turned to horrific.

 
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Fritz Lang expertly builds tension and dread by pairing the mundane goings-on of a town with the crimes that set the town on edge. Lang does this twice. First, the children are playing a normal kids game, but are singing a gruesome song about a child murder. The second example is the little girl bouncing her ball against a wanted poster.

 

In both of these examples, the children are doing what they probably do everyday. They are having fun seemingly without a care in the world. However, the movie uses the song and the wanted poster to remind us that children have died and more children will die. This forces the audience into the position of the parents of the kids. We worry for their safety.

 

Another aspect of the opening that builds tension is the second woman, the Mother. When we see her she is exhausted. When she says the line, "As long as we can hear 'em singing, at least we know they're still there," the Mother seems almost defeated. It seems she has been dealing with this depressing reality for too long a time. At that moment she is separated from her child and it seems like she spends most of her day filled with worry and fear over here daughter's well-being. When the audience sees that in her, we begin to feel the same way.

 

The last thing we see in the clip is the shadow of a man. We only see his shadow, not his face. This builds mystery around his identity adding to the tension. We know that this is the child murderer, because his coming was foretold by the children's song. The song goes, "Just you wait, it won't be long. The man in black will soon be here." Almost four minutes later the man in black shows up. 

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Lang's opening scene shows children singing a song - a song with frightening words, but to the children it means nothing.  He begins by depicting the innocence of children.  The little girl walking - the same child who was singing in the first scene, and the same child with the ball.  Here we see the irony of the child singing a song that is mirrored in the poster and the shadow in the last scene.

As soon as the woman on the balcony is out of sight, the children start singing again.  Yet we don't see the children; nor do we see the woman, or anyone, until she is almost at the top of the steps.  The mother doing laundry says that as long as she can hear them, they're all right.  Notice that when she says this, we can no longer hear the children.  The mother is setting the table for two, but we don't see who the second person is.  The child walking home from school - We hear a horn, but we do not see the car.  The child playing with the ball - We do not see the man who speaks to her.  This repeated avoidance of showing major elements onscreen builds the sense of the evil "Unknown" that is apparently following the children.  The poster about the missing children ultimately tells us what that "Unknown" is.  

This "Unknown", used to build suspense, is a major element of film noir.

  

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A bit late to the party because we (my wife and I) decided to watch the entire film where possible, rather than just the opening.

 

This was my first time watching M, and what an incredible film it is.

 

I had previously been a little hesitant to watch it as I thought the subject matter might turn me off too much, especially recently having a two year old child, but no, it's a fantastically effective and entertaining film.

 

The opening is particularly effective in setting the tone - Is this the first example of the trope of the child singing creepily?

 

The movie as a whole is an interesting mix of being often very tense, especially when Lorre is stalking on the street, and the reaction of the citizens which is almost comical... Or at least light hearted at times.

 

I won't spoil it here, but the climax of the film is unexpected and thrilling.

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Like it has been mentioned several times here already I thought the quote from the one woman that "as long as we can hear them they are still alive" then they could not be heard. The use of the street sounds was also effective in setting up the suspense.

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  Good discussion. I cannot help but place this film in historical context: the rise of National Socialism in pre-WWII Germany. Surely the coming to power of Hitler's Nazi party was marked by a quelling of contrary voices and opinion, "As long as we can hear them, they are still alive." Surely Lang knew this. His work would be considered "degenerate," and he was fortunate enough to emigrate to America. "Casablanca," made years later, was notable for the voice of Viktor Laszo, the conscience of the underground the Nazis in Vichy French-Morocco were trying to kill. One can almost see the little girl's ball bouncing down the street outside Bogart's Rick's American Café.' 

  What makes this film a gateway to film noir for me is the use of light and shadow to depict the sides and shades of humanity, human thought and action and the human condition. When we become complacent, when the clock is striking and its voice is "cuckoo," we should be awakened to the danger, not lurking, but present. And it is no excuse to say we acted under compulsion, or to let the criminals deal with the problem so we can return to business as usual. What is foreboding about the film is its commentary on the reality during which it was made.

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Film noir is a very cynical genre, full of darkness, shadows, and really, really terrible people. But there's always a bit of improbability in most film noirs: this is terrible and twisted, but it can't happen to us in real life.

 

Fritz Lang's "M" is so unnerving and terrifying because it takes film noir to a realistically tragic and gruesome place: child murder. The murder of innocence and purity. Of peace and a sense of safety. After that, all that's left is darkness and hatred-- the stuff that film noir is made of.

 

The first five minutes of "M" sets up the rest of the film perfectly. There's a sense of anxiety and foreboding from the onset. We get the sense that things are far from normal for these people; that tragedy has already struck and intends to strike again. Anxious parents await their children, as the children live in innocent, childish oblivion, playing an elimination game as they sing a song that makes gruesome references to murder, unaware that serious, very real danger lurks around them.

 

For a moment at least, things feel safe for these children: it's blaring daylight, there's a police officer and other seemingly safe adults around, as a little girl plays ball in front of a poster that warns of the child murderer; but then a dark shadow of the male form passes over that poster, and all feelings of safety for that brief moment in this film are quickly shattered.

 

Lang's genius is in what he doesn't show. In only showing this murderer for the first time in shadow, and not at all showing the murder of these children, Lang allows us to use our own imagination.

 

What you get when you cross film noir, or at least a precursor to Film noir, and the very worst and heinous acts of society, is Fritz Lang's Masterwork, “M".

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The children (like the adults) are oblivious to a presence they cannot imagine or know. The fail to see what the posters read as they bounce their ball or understand the words they sing in a nursery rhyme. The child who chooses the "victim" in the nursery-rhyme game becomes the victim herself. The ball that once bounced on a warning to children rolls quietly away from a child no longer able to play.

 

The personal dilemma of "M" struggling with compulsion as well as the overarching complexities of how "civil society" deals with the psychopathic individual is the meat of this story, interlaced with marvelous vignettes of a cast of characters from all walks of life all searching for "M". Lorre gives an incredibly charged tour de force performance in the finale. Completely riveting.

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Probably mentioned before but M also has its comedy and light elements. One of the more striking was the inclusion and introduction of one of the most iconic American characters of all time. I actually believe it's his debut in a feature length film, albeit in a non speaking cameo part.

 

But both his first and last name start with the letter M. Makes you wonder, doesn't it....

 

I assume you have to click on the picture to be able to see him, but Mickey Mouse is in the film!

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May already have been mentioned during this well developed discussion, but occurred to me last night: Lorre's character, begun as a disembodied shadow during the opening, also has no name; only "M." The black and white, shades and shadows of noir reflect what is inside each of us: conflict and struggle with our own conscience. "M" might be "mich" (me).

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Lang's M, has many stylistic qualities of the Noir genre. The use of a grey color palette, lighting, lack of background music, to name only a few. From the first few seconds of the films start you got the sense that there was a dangerous person in the area and he or she preyed on children. The song the children were singing made that evident, and it made the adult uneasy. In Noir films, inanimate are extremely important in filing in the blanks of the story. In this case, the clock on the wall that seems to be the sound of hope and happiness for a woman that has only work to look forward to in her quiet home. The ball that the little girl is playing with makes us take note of her presence and when you stop hearing the bounce you know it means she is in danger. The shadows, are always mysterious and in most cases the evil protagonist of the film, and in this case the sought out murderer.

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My first thought was what on earth are they singing but then I remembered ring games were from past or current events/ issues. This ring game was counting down which child is next to be murdered. So now my mind in on murder, either happened in the past or something current. I am curious but not frightened. Then I am taken to a woman, a mother? She had an air of authority when she asked the children to stop singing but then she left the balcony, and the camera lingered at the empty balcony for awhile. I felt a sense of neglect. You could hear the children singing again so one could think either the children were disobedient or the woman wasn't a strong authority figure. What had me was when Elsie's mother said 'let them sing at least then we can hear them and we will know that they are still there' or something like that and I thought 'What the heck lol Wouldn't that be too late. Do you see the distance between the children and her door? Btw, why aren't they in school!' I was furious. She smiled, she was happy, she was cooking... Someone that brightens her day was coming home. The clock chimed, she tasted her cooking. The scene changed, a little girl about to cross the road (I thought that must be the child). She doesn't pay much to her surrounding because she was about to cross when vehicles were still moving. I started getting anxious because suddenly I knew what was about to happen. I thought 'no no no...' but sometimes they don't allow the child to be taken away right. An anticlimax right? The build up was good. I gathered clues pointed out by the camera that set the mood they wanted me to be. The director had me. I would like to add though that being use to the films that are showing these days i have become accustomed to anticlimactic scenes and twists upon twists and so I am trying to watch older films without too much of that expectation, which is refreshing.

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Several things I noticed while watching this clip:

1. From what we're shown in the opening moments, we only ever see part of the scene (the kids counting without knowing what's above, the landing in the stairwell without seeing the door or the stairs below). I think this is very deliberate and creates a sense of discomfort because we are constantly wondering what we're not seeing.

 

2. You can feel the fatigue and discomfort of the woman carrying the laundry basket and that is unsettling. The audience is likely going to the movie to escape the boring aspects of domestic life and to see someone lugging laundry up the stairs kind of subverts that desire. Film noir isn't about outright pleasure, glamour and entertainment.

 

3. The opening scene gives us our first taste that something is wrong. "As if we haven't heard enough of that murderer already" says the one woman. The response given by the other woman is very ominous, "At least we can hear them singin', at least we know they're still there..." It's almost a clue that if you can't hear the children signing, something is wrong. Does that mean the murderer is attacking children? (The answer to that is given in the next scene)

 

4. Then the cuckoo clock. When it goes off, the woman smiles but only in the most subtle way. It leads the audience to ask, why is she smiling? Is it because school is letting out? Is the child we are seeing her daughter?

 

5. In the next scene, we see the child getting out of school and almost getting hit by a car, which creates a further sense of uneasiness - that death or injury is just a misstep away and that people, especially children, should pay attention in this world that Lang has created.

 

6. We then see the woman again, setting a table for two. Again, we don't know exactly who the other person is, but we are lead to believe that it might be the child we are seeing that she is waiting for.

 

7. Then we see the child playing with her ball. The activity is altogether innocent, but again, our limited viewpoint, and thus, our inability to see anyone else on the street creates a sense of uneasiness. What is the child not noticing while her head is down? After she almost walked in to traffic earlier, we want her to pay attention.

 

8. We then see the wanted poster - we know two young children are missing which underscores the fears being set up in the previous scenes, but we are made all the more uneasy by the uncertainty of the crimes. What happened to the children? Who is the man in black? Then we see the shadow of a man. Is this the man in black? His monotone voice, the way he leans down, the innocent questions he asks, it all makes us fear for the safety of the child.

 

I definitely think this opening scene is powerful. It drew me in, made me want to watch more but also made me uneasy. I think even just the idea that someone could do such a thing to an innocent child is enough to convey the emotion that Fritz Lang wanted, but knowing that we, as an audience, might witness it happening is even more terrifying.

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In the opening scene of M, Lang uses classic techniques of film noir such as a somber tone (the dark, almost tomb-like or underworld play area of the children); disillusionment - the innocence of childhood in the face of evil and the oppressed mothers; the cuckoo clock signalling the march of time in a hopeless word. Some warning signs of trouble are indicated by the clock, the empty stair landing, and the child almost running in front of a car. The scene of the murderer's shadowed image in front of the poster is most ironic, and creepy. 

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The opening sequence in M is really interesting in the way that it is so very different than the Hollywood films of the same period. Hollywood was hot on musicals being that 1930 was so early in the sound age, and suffered from the concept that everything had to be flashy and loud. M is very much the exact opposite, forcing the viewer to pay close attention because of the quietness of the scene, and the boring every day scenario depicted. I found myself actually leaning in so as not to miss the subtle sounds that were present - a pretty clever device.

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Hi all. I apologize if I'm going to repeat anything that anyone Elsie said already, but I thought it would be a good idea to get my feelings down about the scene before reading, and being influenced by, the rest of the posts that have already been made. I know I'm a little late to the party in this instance, but my schedule and late sign up didn't allow me to even start with this course until yesterday, which was mostly spent filling out profiles and getting comfortable with what was ahead of me. But once I get caught up to the curriculum (i.e., watched and commented on all the scenes from last week and get through the new stuff from this week), I’ll be much more prompt with my responses.

And I should also apologize up front for my writing style. I tend to write a number of opinions that are off topic, which I always enclose in parenthesis at the point in my writing when I think of them, and then will continue on with the sentence the way I would have wrote it without the side comment. Many people have found it easier to follow my writing if they skip the comments (i.e. don’t read the stuff in the parenthesis) until they finish reading the complete sentence. But, being a multitasker, I’ve always been able to throw in the comments when they fit, even if it causes me to take a brief siesta from my original thought.

Also, when I include a word in all capital letters in a sentence, it’s my way of adding emphasis to the word/words. When an entire sentence should be emphasized, I use an exclamation point at the end of the sentence like everybody Elsie. However, when I include a word or words in in all caps, it’s my way of adding addition emphasis to just those words. This is most likely a result of years of communicating via social media, where using capital letters when writing gets you accused of yelling! And, while I’m not screaming at anyone, I have found it an easy way to add emphasis to certain phrases in my writing. However, I will occasionally include an entire sentence in all caps, and top it off with an exclamation point. When I DO use this technique, I basically AM yelling, or at very least, saying that sentence louder than any of the rest. I developed this way of writing long before I started using a word processor and used to write with a pen and paper to communicate (yes kids, that’s really what we used to do!). I also found it a helpful technique when writing out my lines in a play or a presentation so I’d know where I wanted to add extra emphasis when speaking, and the technique stuck with me. I know that, now that I do use a word processor, I should be using italics or underlining for this purpose, but old habits are hard to break, and I find that pressing the uppercase key to be easier than switching those items on and off, especially in cases where I’m using a text generator that doesn’t even include those options! And if we all wrote in the same way, Shakespeare might have been just been another bit part actor! Not that I’m comparing myself to him mind you, but anyway.

And I’m sure you’ll be able to remember these little writing quirks, Professor, even if I AM only one of 14,000 students, because I’m not going to spend this entire course repeating myself before everything I write, which I think you’ll be happy about at the very least!

Now, on to the clip from “M”:

First, the mother and her friend/client in the clip. You could tell how hard a life they were living, struggling to get the laundry up the stairs and to the woman who was going to do the washing, and the effort it took for the woman doing the wash, having to scrape each piece of laundry against the “bumpy board” (being a product of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, I’m afraid I don’t have a clue what that thing she was using was called, even though I’ve seen them before, being a fan of older movies and all!) the way she had to. You could sense her concern about the danger out in the world by the way she objected so strongly to the song the young girl was singing during the game the kids were playing (although that impression was most likely a product of having seen the movie a number of times before since you weren’t supposed to KNOW that early in the film what the real danger was that the kids were facing). The thing I really loved about the scene where the mother came out on the porch to tell the girl to stop singing that terrible song was the way she was photographed through the barred railing when she first walked out, making me think that her life was like a prison to her. Her friend’s response to the wash woman’s objections about the song was telling too, I thought. I mean, telling her friend, basically, “Who CARES what they’re singing about! As long as they ARE singing, we know they haven’t been taken yet by the monster who’s around!” was fairly sound advice, but also spoke to the fear that BOTH woman were dealing with about the situation.

Next about Elsie, the little girl in the scene. I thought the fact that she was singing a song that was so dark and scary was a great way to  let the audience in on what the community was facing from the child molester/murderer in their midst! But the fact that she was doing it while playing a game with her friends, showed how unaware SHE was to the danger that was present!

Later in the clip, we see Elsie leaving school with all of her fellow classmates, and my first thoughts here didn’t have anything to do with the movie itself, but made me think of how much society has changed since the movie was made, but even more so, how it’s changed since I was a kid, which was 30 years AFTER this movie was made, but, as of today, is closer to 40 years ago now (yes, that’s how old I really am!). The fact that all of these very young kids were being let out of school in a very big city (I don’t know Germany that well, and don’t remember if the city was ever identified, but it certainly could be compared to New York or Chicago if the film had been domestic) and they weren’t being met and walked home by their parents, as seems to be the norm today, shouldn’t make anyone think that these kids aren’t loved or well cared for! Being a student of history, or more accurately, simply remembering how things were when I was her age and attended school, I know that’s just what happened! Even though there was a homicidal maniac loose in the city who preyed on young children, kids used to get out of school and walk home by themselves, or at least, accompanied by a friend or friends who happened to be going in the same direction. I know I would only be met by my mother when I got out of school on those occasions (I’d say rare, but in my case, they were a lot more frequent than I would have preferred) when there was a doctor or dentist’s appointment to go to! The fact that these kids were NOT being picked up and walked home doesn’t have anything to do with neglect, or a parent’s attempt at “free-range” child rearing! Again, it was the norm in those days, so nothing should be read into that, at least in my opinion, even though the mother was being shown as being overly concerned (or maybe NOT!) that it was taking Elsie so long to actually make it home from school. I think the only thing that SHOULD be read into that fact was how it emphasized how busy Elsie’s mother was, despite the fact that she was “only a housewife” (the quotes being added so nobody will think that I assume that this is an easy role, because I don’t feel that way!), and didn’t have time in her day to walk her child to or home from school. My mother would never do that with me (other than the exception already noted) even though she simply had to throw dirty clothes into a washing machine to get them clean! I’d also like to make the point that that nothing should be read into the fact that the victims in these crimes were all “pretty little white girls”.  Back in the 30’s, all movies that were made for the general viewing public were only about “pretty little while girls” and their families. I don’t think Fritz Lang had a single thought about the different ways the crime would have been treated had the child been a person of color. He was simply making a Thriller (as it would be called today at least) and not a social documentary. And the fact that ALL of the kids leaving school that day were “pretty little white kids”, again, was normal for those days, at least in this country, although I can’t speak for Germany, but knowing how Hitler at least thought about anyone who wasn’t from Arian stock, I don’t THINK things were much different over there! The people of other ethnicities would be attending a “separate but equal” school (in this case, the quote are being used because I really DON’T believe this was ever really true!) in a different part of the city. But enough about what SHOULDN’T be read into the film we’re being asked to comment on here!

When Elsie leaves her school, and is walking and playing with her ball, she is shown to almost step out into a busy street while a car is about to hit her. I viewed this as a means to show how innocent Elsie was, and how unconcerned kids of her age tended to be about the dangers that they face on a day to day basis, without yet bringing into it the danger she faced from Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre)!

The clip that is being used in this instance happens to include one of my favorite scenes from the entire movie! It’s the scene that comes next, which is the scene that ends the clip, but also the scene that kicks the movie into high gear! And while the scene could well have been the invention of the writer of the film, I tend to give credit for scenes like this to the film’s director, in this case, the great Fritz Lang! In just a very few seconds of film, he accomplished an awful lot.

The scene opens with a poster that tells the audience exactly what Elsie’s mother had been concerned about, although you already had a pretty big clue from the song Elsie was singing at the beginning of the film! While the song talked about a monster who was out there preying on young children, or more specifically, young girls (although I can’t name any films being made in 1931 that EVER included a same sex molester of children, but I haven’t seen them all quite yet!), the song was from the point of view of a child, at least I assume it was, because I can’t imagine a song like that being written by an adult, at least not in those days! The poster brought the film’s “danger” into perfect focus pretty succinctly! It told about children who had been abducted and killed in another city, and the fact that the perpetrator was now operating in the city where Elsie was living, and that there was a major man hunt for the man by the police in the city. But during the time that the audience was reading the poster, (or in our case, since we are American’s after all, and therefore can generally only speak the one language, we were reading the subtitles that told what the poster said), a ball was being bounced off of the poster. Because of the scene just prior, at least for those who didn’t recognize the ball itself, you knew that the person bouncing the ball off the poster was our friend (and our surrogate child in many cases) Elsie. She was bouncing the ball off the poster most likely because she was too young to be able to actually read the poster. And while this may be true, it had the effect of showing that Elsie didn’t think any more about the monster she had been singing about during the opening scene in the film than she thought about the sidewalk that she had just been bouncing the ball off of, which showed how innocent she really was, but also how unaware she was of the danger that she faced!

The fact that a shadow of a man is shown on the wanted poster was a great visual to get the point across to the audience that this shadow belonged to the person whom the poster was about! And when he mentions how pretty the ball is, and Elsie replies to him as she would to her mother or to a friend, you know in just two lines of dialogue what the outcome of the encounter is going to be without having to show an attack or the result of the attack on poor innocent little Elsie!

When I think of Film Noir, I not only think of darkness, as the name of TCM’s festival implies, although darkness DOES have a major connection to most movies in this category. Because my first, and still my favorite, example of Film Noir is “The Maltese Falcon”, when I think about the genre, the thing I think about even before darkness, is shadows because of how effectively that film used them. And because the film’s villain is introduced with just a shadow not only made me put this film into the same category, but was also an effective tool to help hide the villain’s identity for a little while longer.

I AM sorry about the fact that it took me more words to discuss a four minute scene than were probably used in the entire movie, but I DID get an awful lot out of this four minutes of film, especially without the clip being very “word heavy”. But one of the things I also think about when I think about Film Noir is the fact that a lot of the story is generally told visually, and not through the use of words. Using my previous example of “The Maltese Falcon” again, when Sam Spade (Bogart) leaves after his first encounter with “The fat man” (Greenstreet), the quick piece of film showing Spade’s hand shaking tells you more about the character, what he thinks about Casper Gutman, and how he thinks about the entire case, than the total amount of dialogue that had been used in the film up to that point, again, at least in my opinion! I hope others find this helpful, and made you consider more than you did while watching the clip. I also hope that my presentation isn’t just a re-hash of what others may have already written, because, again, I didn’t read any of their thoughts prior to now.

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Fritz Lang's opening scene in "M" is full of uneasiness and dread. One of the ways that Lang creates these feelings is by his use of sounds in the film. We hear a child singing in German about a murderer and a woman scolding her for singing such a dreadfuls song. The woman's anger seems to stem from a mixture of unease and terror. We are kept aware as viewers when he hear a cuckoo clock and the public school bell. As a child is almost hit by a car, we are kept at the edge of our seats. Lang uses a shadowy figure to loom over a Missing Child poster to show that there is something off about this person. We watch as the shadowy figure lures in an innocent little girl, who seems to be unaware of the murderer on the loose as she throws her ball against the missing person poster. The little girl will soon become the subject of a missing person poster herself. These cinematic elements set the mood for the entire film.

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I'd like to start off my first post on the TCM Message Boards by first thanking Turner Classic Movies for a few things.  First off, thank you very much for giving us the opportunity at a free course.  It is so rare to find a company willing to offer free education, even in pop culture related information, and yet here you guys are offering this free course for so many to utilize.

 

Thank you also for becoming the official sponsor of The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  I actually used to be a Tour Guide at The Great Movie Ride, and it is so great to see a company putting some money into this beloved attraction.  Your company has done a great job of reinvigorating this 1989 classic.

 

Anyhow, more on topic with this Daily Dose discussion, I greatly admire M for using film techniques that are used in modern horror films even to this day.  The suspense, the use of children to convey fear in the viewer, everything in the provided scene is so ahead of its time.  Future horror films like Nightmare on Elm Street, and even more recently the 2012 film Sinister, would go on to use the technique of invoking audience fear using children as a device.

 

 

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