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Daily Dose of Darkness #7: The Swinging Pendulum (The Opening Scene of Ministry of Fear)


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A few things thought of while viewing this and after (reading what people say) 

 

-the ticking clock was almost like Poe's The Tell Tail Heart and The Pit and the Pendulum

 

-Right before the clock turned to a new hour we see Ray's hands begin to tighten (that makes me think he might have had some electric shock therapy?) 

 

-Why and how did Ray get into Police Business?

 

-I feel that we might see clocks though out this film as a sign/theme

I'm fascinated by your observation, about the shock therapy. I loved how Milland used his hands in this scene, but that symbolism did not occur to me. Now that you pointed it out, it fits. Thanks for sharing that.

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The slow swinging of the pendulum presages something and as in M you have a feeling of dread. As the camera rolls away from the clock, across the room, and we see Ray Milland seated and staring at the clock, we have a feeling of release or escape. Shortly afterwards when Milland is actually released from the institution, the camera moves down and towards him before the gate swings open and release is actually achieved. There are comments about Milland's hands and electric shock therapy above. I don't agree with the theory of what caused his hands fidgeting. Closely watch a nervous person or one anticipating something. Often hands reveal the person's anxiety. Milland is anxious for those last few seconds to tick off and he shuts and locks his suitcase with a sense of finality when the time has elapsed.

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The clock alone during the first several seconds seems pretty innocuous.  When you add in the music, then you get much more a sense of foreboding. Once the credits finish and the camera pans to the time, there is a feeling that it is not just a coincidence that it is three minutes to six.  There is an expectation that something is about to happen.  As the camera draws back Ray Milland comes into view.  He is just sitting there waiting, again creating the impression that something is about to happen.  Another man enters the room.  Milland then confirms for us that indeed something is about to happen, as he comments about watching the last minute crawl by.  As the clock begins to toll we see the expectation in his body language.  Finally when it tolls six  there is a release of tension, almost like a spring being released.  His first words are "free man".  Obviously he has been held in this place for some reason.  It is not until he leaves that we realize he has been an inmate in an asylum, but we do not yet know why. 

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What stands out in Fritz Lang’s, “Ministry of Fear” that relates to “M” is how carefully the camera set-ups are composed and executed.  Lang’s style is very considered and controlled, in many ways similar to Hitchcock.  Like “M,” the walls, with their mottled shadows have a sooty, almost dirty look that resemble the interior walls in the opening scene of “M.”  The clock, measuring time for someone doing time, is composed so the swinging pendulum arcs exactly between the hanging counter weights.  As the credits end, the camera dollies up to perfectly catch the clock inching forward one more minute.  What’s different from “M” is the immediate use of very ominous music to cue the film’s genre.

 

The interaction between Ray Milland and his doctor, Lester Matthews initially is loaded with Milland’s bitterness.  Matthews off-handedly suggests the clock should be speeded up, prompting a sarcastic reply from Milland, who can’t wait to leave asylum.  Milland, prior to standing up from his chair, clutches the air as though he might strangle Matthews, then relaxes, grabs the arms of the chair and stands up, looking forward to soon being amongst the crowds in London.

 

I particularly admire Lang’s ability to set up multiple shots in one long shot.  To cover Milland’s exit from the asylum, initially, the camera, up high reveals the interior and exterior walls of the asylum, then it cranes down to compose Milland exiting the asylum, lingering on Matthews for a beat, then the camera quickly pans left and dollies forward to frame “Lembridge Asylum” nearly hidden in the wall’s ivy as Milland exits camera left.  All done in one shot negating the need for three or more set ups and the requisite editing of the shots.  Nice!  Lang’s work here reminds me of the complex camera moves and actor choreography found in Otto Preminger’s staging in, “Laura.”

 

This opening to “Ministry of Fear” is a wonderful scene that sets up Milland’s back-story as well as his immediate plans, all the while suggesting that Milland may not quite be cured or, even worse, his stay in the asylum, listening to the clock tick, may have caused him to become unstable.

 

Thanks - Mark

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How would you compare the opening of M to the opening of Ministry of Fear?   The opening credits have the Pendulum going from "menacing" (close up, shadows, swinging, swinging) to "normal" after the camera pans out to show the clock on the wall.  We see the bars on  the window, a dark room, long shadows from the open door, from where the doctor enters.  Ray Milland is sitting with his back to us, in shadow.  Then the camera pans around so we can watch him; as soon as the clock strikes the hour, Ray Milland relaxes, smiles, lets go his grip of the chair arms as if thinking, "it's over."  Then we learn he was in some serious trouble, the doctor warns him "not to get mixed up with the police again" (which we  know immediately is precisely what he's going to do).  Note that the doctor is protective of Milland, which puts us in sympathy with Milland.  Then we see the spikes on top of the gates, and as Ray Milland walks away, the sign, "Asylum" is the last thing we see.  Uh-oh, is he a wronged man, insane or guilty?  Like "M", the camera's panning goes from bad to worse in its symbolism, saving the biggest/worst clue for the end. In "M", it was the Wanted Poster and the voice over of the child's voice talking to the stranger.  In "Ministry," it is seeing the sign that indicates our protagonist is not what he seems as he walks away towards his doom.

 

-- Describe in your own words how Fritz Lang uses the clock in this scene as a major element to set mood and atmosphere.  See above.

 

About the movie itself:  First, Ministry of Fear was written by one of the greatest writers of that time (or maybe any time) -- Graham Greene, who also wrote The Third Man. Second, Ray Milland is one of the most effective innocent protagonists I've seen.  He has that quality of being charming and just plain nice yet at the same time, there is a darkness to him, a mood that makes the suspicions of him believable. (Dana Andrews had that in spades but not so nice.) When I first saw this movie, one of the aspects I liked was that they did not make Ray's character unstable.  He is in fact, sane and rational.  He's also honest, rather intelligent, and willing to do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of the mystery. 

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      The children’s “murder victim game” immediately put me on edge, telling me in a most economical way the essence of M. The lady screaming at the children to stop singing “that horrible song” reinforced the sense of threat, as did both the pronounced shadows in the shot of the stairway and the woman’s heavy breathing.  By contrast, what made the ticking clock have an ominous quality were the pronounced shadows created by the strong lateral light from the left and the music suggesting a tolling bell.  But, for me, the sense of ominousness is much less intense in the opening scene of Ministry of Fear. The action of M created fear; a man sitting in the dark in a room and another entering it just don’t generate a similar effect, for me.

     In addition to the shadows, the loud ticking conveys a foreboding, that we are on the threshold of something ominous.  This is further reinforced by the time: just three minutes before the hour strikes, indicating an end or a beginning.  This uncertainty produces apprehension.  The plodding beat of the music further reinforces the sense of expectation.

    I must confess that I don’t think of film noir when I see this opening clip.  I’m interested to see why the ticking clock is the focus, but it doesn’t make me think “noir” immediately. Perhaps others’ comments will enlighten me in this regard.

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I found it interesting that the clocks in Fritz Lang’s “Ministry of Fear” and “M” had a similar purpose, among probably several in the mind of the great director.

 

The clocks striking a certain hour bring a measure of happiness both to Neale (played by Ray Milland) in “Ministry of Fear,” and Mrs. Eckmann (played by Ellen Widmann) in “M”. Both of these clocks strike and signal a certain time, a time that both of these characters were longing for.

 

Neale is elated that he will be released from the asylum into what he believes to be a new start for a better life. Frau Eckmann is happy because she knows that her daughter, Elsie, is being let out of school and she believes that soon she will be home again into her waiting arms. Irony. Neither of these characters realizes a manifestation of their expected happiness. A masterful use of irony, I think.

 

This is probably far-fetched, but the science of pendulum motion, among so many ideas cramming the mind of a great director, may have crossed Lang’s mind in some way. Who knows? A pendulum is affected by the gravity of the Earth. The world is at war and metaphorically at least, the cataclysm that was World War II, shook the Earth off its axis rendering pendulums to lose their predictability ever so slightly as to escape notice.  Maybe it wasn’t the right time for Neale’s departure…

 

Psychoanalysis is at least tacitly brought into the picture when the audience learns that Neale is being released from an asylum. As Borde and Chaumeton point out, “As it is, after 1939 many Hollywood producer’ names were to be found on the list of subscribers to The Psychoanalytical Review. And the cinema didn’t take long in taking advantage of this, whether in an explicit manner or in the more discreet form of an implicit theme.” (Raymond Borde, Etienne Chaumeton, Paul Hammond (translator), A Panorama of American Film Noir (1941-1953) Page 18).

 

What could be more intriguing than having a protagonist with a psychiatric history? What could be more noirish and disturbing? How will his divided self cope with the real world? Since Neale is being released from an asylum, we have a budding element of doubt and an inchoate queasiness about his future. And this hooks us in.

 

The sound of the creaking of the gate, though a bit clichéd, adds to the sense of foreboding. (Of course, there is a scientific explanation for practically everything: the gate wasn’t oiled, adding friction. Oils well will end well?? Nope!)

 

Dr. Morton (played by Lester Matthews) reaches the gate with Neale…

“One parting thought, Neale: Don't get involved with the police again in any way.
A second charge wouldn't be easy.”

 

What in heaven (or that other place) did Neale do? Uh oh!

 

Neale: “A quiet life from here on.” 

 

Neale walks past the Lembridge Asylum sign.

 

By now, all that has gone before, tick by tock, spreads a paranoia that the clock is a cover for a time bomb!

 

I loved the dread in the opening chord of Victor Young’s music as the title appears and the pendulum swings.

 

Henry Sharp’s cinematography with the contrasting shadows in Neale’s asylum room is disturbingly wonderful. Neale’s face as he sits in wait is divided in half. Darkness and light, a mind torn by both. Brilliant!

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The opening of Fritz Lang's Ministry of Fear continually draws the viewer's attention to one aspect of the scene: the clock. We are introduced to the film by the clock's ceaseless ticking. It sets the pace of the scene. It gives the audience the forboding feeling that something important will happen when the minute hand reaches 12. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. Fritz Lang once again gives the feeling that something bad will happen while showing nothing of the kind, much like he did in the opening of M.

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Both films start with a clock that becomes a symbol of mortality: in M, the children are arranged in a circle and one child, as a clock hand, points to each child, suggesting time passing and time ending for each and eventually all. The tone in M. is ambiguous: children can't quite comprehend the grim humor of their game. In Ministry, the clock is counting down to when the protagonist will be liberated, but it also anticipates other time pieces associated with death. 

 

I love the beginning of Ministry. The use of chiaroscuro creates strong contrasts, and as one blogger pointed out, there isn't a natural light source to account for the light cast on the clock and the wall. Keeping the camera on the clock intensifies the uncanny, disturbing effect of the shot. And as the camera tracks back, creating an establishing shot, finally!, the volume of the clock ticking decreases. I wonder if Lang had deliberately distorted the volume initially to add to the atmosphere of dread. 

 

When Milland's character is introduced, he's in the shadows and his back is to the camera, indistinguishable from everything else. What an unconventional way to introduce the star! I think this is brilliant, though; I can't imagine many stars, then or now, allowing their director to introduce them like this. Sharp angles, back lighting: love it, love it. It looks like the ceiling is visible in the room. (I recall that one of the many great daring stylistic features of Wells' CKane is that he had the interior ceilings in the shots.) That contributes to the claustrophobia. Minutes later Milland's character will fantasize about the freedom and the wide spaces he anticipates finding in London, a wonderful juxtaposition to the cramp space of this uncanny room. 

 

The tension is released when the hour strikes. Milland seems to have been gripping the arms of the chairs tightly. But as he lifts his hands, it looks as though he's going to raise his arms above his head, as though he's been caught committing a crime.

 

When Milland stands up, the camera angle changes, creating a new line of action. I think Lang did this for several reasons. First, he wants to keep that clock in the frame, ticking away. And second, the new camera angle/position is ready to follow Milland out the door.

 

After the dissolve, there's a wonderful high angle shot, another reference to M. Finally, as Milland's character walks to the left of the frame, his shadow is cast on the wall of the institution, another allusion to the style of M.

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One of the things that I expect this course will help me get over is my long-held feeling that 'noir' is an essentially American art-form. To me, Lang's "M" and "Ministry of Fear" have a distinctly European sensibility that - although influential on American 'noir' - just doesn't have the same flavor. The elements in both the opening of "M" and "Ministry of Fear" remind me of early Hitchcock - prior to his full immersion in American form. Hardly surprising given that, at the start of his career, Hitchcock was hugely influenced by German Expressionism. To compound this European-ism, in "Fear" we have a script based on a novel by that most English of authors, Graham Greene. I have to accept that the majority of the noir audience doesn't agree with this distinction - but I find it difficult to watch films like "The Third Man" or "Brighton Rock", "M" and "Ministry of Fear" and consider them 'noir' (although they share certain classic 'noir' elements) when, to my mind, they are euro-centric Thriller/Dramas. I look forward to being corrected on this small matter!

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The clocks in both films tick in anticipation of an expected end: the school day and return of Elsie in M and the release from the institution in Ministry. They each build tension but in M it is much more intense. We know it involves children. In Ministry we're not certain what is going on until the doctor warns him about the police and we see the name of the asylum as Milland walks away. Obviously he has been "counting the minutes" for a while till his release. Why did the doctor say he'd meant to speed up the clock?

 

Lang is a master of dark shadows, much deeper than in most films. They offer cover and threat at the same time. He again sets the tone of a seemingly ordinary individual caught in extra-ordinary circumstance and the mental state.  We have yet to learn why he was committed, if he's really "cured" and how "innocent" will his actions be. Doesn't look good at this point!

 

 

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I like the illumination of the clock face while the protagonist remains cloaked in shadow, as if this is a room where identity is lost and the only movement is the passage of time. Then the doctor steps in and the man's face is illuminated. He's acknowledged by another person, and suddenly he exists again.

 

I also like the mystery of why he is waiting, which leads me to imagine some kind of death sentence until I later learned he was actually being released. This, combined with the menacing gate and the outside as, optimistically, a damaged place to be shoved around by anonymous crowds, suggests to me that the asylum is a sanctuary and the real menace lies outside.

 

I've already added this film to the top of my Netflix queue, because I have to see more!

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Clocks signal to me that we are waiting for something to happen. We want to look at a clock to know whether it's time for an anticipated event: your child coming home from school in M and release from the asylum in Ministry of Fear. In both cases, we the film starts we don't know what these events are and so we don't yet know the significance of the clock.

 

There is also the heavy use of shadows and high contrast between lighted places and dark places. This is something we see in many of Lang's movies to indicate the something sinister that may be hiding in the shadows and the ability of light to dispel them.

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How would you compare the opening of to the opening of Ministry of Fear?

We step into the uncomfortable situation right away - we are told about the danger, but the warning goes unheard- as the victims carelessly focus on having fun.

Visually, it is the same style, even the design of the sets, dark, constraint (reflecting that the characters are trapped), the set are made to represent a real place, but look staged- as if we were living in a dream, rather a nightmare. By the end of the scene we know that the characters will meet the foretold danger face to face.

 

Describe in your own words how Fritz Lang uses the clock in this scene as a major element to set mood and atmosphere. 

The pendulum shows the doomed pace of time - which is illogic. Neal is awaiting his release - I would expect a happy anticipation - instead, he is anchored int eh past, immobilized by anxiety - as he watches the clock.  (we know this will be his downfall) 

The shape of the clock in Neal's room - unadorned, large, with a noisy ticking,- feels threatening. The bare face of the clock appears like a face spying on Neal, increasing his unease. This is a contrast with the cuckoo clock in M - which fills the mother with happiness - as she awaits (in vain we know) for her child to come home.

Clocks are frequently used to denote instability, a sense or urgency, or the pass of time in movies - in both M and The ministry of fear they foreshadow doom - and they do so while they are announcing good news- this ambiguity produces tension. 

In what ways can this opening scene from Ministry of Fear be considered as an important contribution to the film noir style?

I can point to elements in the scene that are part of film noir- I can not evaluate a contribution without having seen all films in chronological order - For example, I do not think that the use of the clock is novel - but the particular shape of it, the position in the room - right across from the bed - may be an individual inspiration associated with the ministry of fear. The physical immobility of Neal, with his bag almost ready, waiting for that last minute to be completed, is a way to show his interior life, the trauma of the past. I do not know if this is was new at the time. Would like to know- it is part of the things I would like to get out of the class.

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Obviously he has been "counting the minutes" for a while till his release. Why did the doctor say he'd meant to speed up the clock?

 

 

I think the doctor understands the ordeal the patients go through in the final days and hours before their release, waiting for the moment to come, and he wishes he could shorten it for them. 

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Lang emphasizes the importance of the clock by not only making it the focal point for the audience but for Neale as well.  A spike on the bottom of pendulum adds to the menace it signifies, as does the sheer size of the pendulum, as revealed when the camera pulls back.  Even though we learn that the clock's ticking is presumably portentous in a positive sense, it more calls to mind the sword of Damocles, ready to fall at any moment.  As the door opens into Neale's room, the light from the hallway creates a sharp contrast, opening up a beckoning lighted tunnel, with the light cast on the floor of his room resembling a carpeted pathway laid out for him.  The exterior shot of the prison gate, lowering as it does from a high angle down to a level one, suggests the layer of protection lost outside the gates, as if there is no one who will now watch over Neale.  The spike on the bottom of the pendulum is suggested by the spikes atop the asylum gate, which, combined with the gate's creaky opening and the advice he's given, makes freedom seem like an option no less ominous than the lack thereof.  In this way, this opening seems more impressive than M's in how it reverses the natural emotion that a viewer would be expected to feel in the scenario, in addition to the way it conceals essential information until the end of the scene.

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In comparing the opening scenes of Lang's Ministry of Fear and M, there's a clear use of repetition to heighten suspense. In Ministry of Fear, it's the clock with its swinging pendulum--back and forth, back and forth. In M, it's more so found in the sound design--the repetitive bouncing of the ball, for example. Both examples offer a promise to the viewer--that he's about to enter a dark world where characters are on edge and something--anything--can happen at any moment.

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I collect old clocks, and I notice them in movies, and I'm here to tell you that the clock in this movie is one of the very few cinematic clocks that ticks correctly. For a pendulum clock to keep good time, or just to keep ticking, the pendulum must swing evenly from one side to the other. When you hear a clock ticking unevenly it's because the set dresser has plopped a clock down somewhere without actually setting it up to run, and it won't run long.

 

I'd never seen this movie before, but I was disposed to like it in the first few seconds because they went to the trouble of setting the clock up correctly.

 

Did anybody else notice that enormous shrubbery arbor just inside the gate of the asylum as Neal was being released? That was no slight thing to build. What do you think it meant?

I hadn't thought of the trouble one went to building the arbor, thus making it intentional...The implied foliage and walkways beyond could represent the labyrinths of the mind and Milland is being released from the inner twists and turns to those of the outside world.

 

Thanks for the insight on clocks. 

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The MINISTRY OF FEAR opening has similar Expressionistic angled views and slanted shadows as M's opening, evoking a sense of dread and foreboding in each.

 

Also I noticed that the credits are in an old German font similar to that in the "wanted" poster in M. This was Germany's usual print lettering style up through the WWII era. I think it's meant to signal the plot's link to that country, to foreshadow the Nazi espionage plot.

 

In both openings the clock conveys a sense of waiting for a crucial event. It builds suspense. (To some extent the ticking clock in the LAURA opening has that effect also, though there it serves as an important plot element more than as a mood-setting prop.) Ray Milland, when we first see him from the front, is raising and dropping his hands on the armrests in a tension-and-release gesture that reminds me of a clock mechanism. Milland and the clock are similarly "wound up".  From the dialogue I gather that Milland has suffered from isolation with only the institution staff and the taunting clock face for company. Now he yearns to be surrounded by other people, and I sense that this repressed longing finally set free could lead him into trouble.

 

Both Fritz Lang openings make heavy use of the German expressionistic sensibility which he, along with the other emigre filmmakers, brought to American noir.

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Fritz Lang was a genius. In all his films, he made the most all resources (Visual, technical, sound and interpretation). The close-up of the clock at the beginning of the film, with hypnotic pendulum indicates the step time to play a key role, in this case for the protagonist, is the time of their "freedom", (asylum exit), although perhaps not, of their deliverance. If we compare with the plane of the clock at the beginning of M, we see that the passage of time, for the mother who waits for her daughter, makes grow their distress (and the viewers)... In both cases, ultimately, the clock involves us viewers in the plot and in the minds of the characters. Lang introduces us with master's degree in the film with a great simplicity of resources, without the need for large movements of camera, special effects, dialogues, movements or grandiose actions.

The music, the lighting and the title of the film also speak of something sinister coming... and finally, to seeing Ray Milland out of the asylum, we can infer that there is or there was some imbalance in the protagonist, which led him to the asylum... And we have to doubt if, out into the real world, not a return to the problems that led to the internment.  We cannot forget, Furthermore, the importance of the game between the rational and irrational or unconscious that characterized the German Expressionism and that influenced directly, Lang and many other filmmakers, in the genesis of the film noir...

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Comparing the opening scene of M to the opening scene in Ministry of Fear, there are 2 things I see. One is the shadow of the clock's pendulum against the wall, I see that as similar to the shadow of the child killer against the reward sign for his capture. The second is the repetition seen in both opening scenes. In M it's the child's circle game round and round she goes and in Ministry of Fear it's tick tick tick of the clock. Fritz Lang uses the clock as the passage of time. When 6:00PM arrives, Ray Milland is free to leave the facility. The opening scene of Ministry of Fear is important to Film Noir as it confirms the use of dark shadows and night scenes with low level lighting.

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The clock immediately adds suspense, as we see it ticking for several seconds before the theme music/title/credits--we're dropped right into a sense of foreboding from the start. The opening reminded me a bit of scenes from Lang's earlier film, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, where we see the mad master criminal in an even more stark asylum, in a similar state to Milland's; almost catatonic in his concentration on something beyond the room. Here the room is dark but livable, almost comfortable (save for the bars on the window--and the incessant ticking of the clock). We gradually learn, in Milland's conversation with the doctor, that he's been in that room for awhile, craves the company of crowds, even if it means finding them in the middle of a city under aerial bombardment. Add to that the warning by the doctor to to get involved with the police again, and seeing the name of the aslyum, and we're once again dropped into a Noir storyline both mysterious and compelling; we only know so much, but what little we know is driving us to the edge of our seats within the first three minutes.  Ministry of Fear has long been on my "must watch" list; I will certainly be watching and recording.

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Comparing the opening scene of M to the opening scene in Ministry of Fear, there are 2 things I see. One is the shadow of the clock's pendulum against the wall, I see that as similar to the shadow of the child killer against the reward sign for his capture. The second is the repetition seen in both opening scenes. In M it's the child's circle game round and round she goes and in Ministry of Fear it's tick tick tick of the clock. Fritz Lang uses the clock as the passage of time. When 6:00PM arrives, Ray Milland is free to leave the facility. The opening scene of Ministry of Fear is important to Film Noir as it confirms the use of dark shadows and night scenes with low level lighting.

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. It also seems to me the clock in M is a bit more cheerful, being a cuckoo clock and the mother smiles, knowing her daughter is getting out of school and will be home soon...or so she thinks.  In Ministry of Fear, the clock is taunting the protagonist with its stern face and loud ticking. For some, the endless ticking could even drive them mad.  The shadow of the doctor entering the dark room appears menacing at first, but then relief as the protagonist knows he will soon be free.  The camera then focuses on the asylum name to let it sink in where he has been all this time and why he was so desperate to get out.

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The clock in MINISTRY OF FEAR goes a long way to creating the mood of an incipient noir, much as the slow pan around Waldo Lydecker's apartment and of his possessions sets the tone for the opening of LAURA. In the case of MINISTRY OF FEAR, the mood Lang creates is dark and foreboding, befitting the tensions Stephen Neale is experiencing as he awaits for the hour of his release from the asylum. He anticipates returning to the daily rush of life in London, but he hasn't quite shaken the mental demons that landed him there in the first place. The clock's inexorable ticking away the minutes take us into Neale's state of mind, that he may be anxiously awaiting his freedom but dreads what it may bring. This is subtly suggested by Ray Milland's acting, particularly as he sits and raises his arms as the pendulum swings away -- energized, but reticent. Yes, it is an expressionist viewpoint and the development of noir as a style injected into this version of one of Graham Greene's "entertainments," as he called his thriller works such as THIS GUN FOR HIRE and CONFIDENTIAL AGENT. Similarities between this opening and that of M are there, as in the lighting -- brighter but stylized in M to create the impression of everyday life, darker and more sinister in MINISTRY OF FEAR to emphasize the terrors the night brings to Neale both physically (the later bombing the doctor warns him about) and mentally (fears of what a return to the normal world will create).

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The mood I'm picking up on from Lang's opening in Ministry of Fear is desolation overcoming despair.  The ornate clock, its weights and pendulum bob accented with heavy shadows as the time ticks away and sets up a slow, dreary atmosphere for the audience and as the camera moves back for a medium shot of the room, we learn this is the environment for our protagonist (Ray Milland).  I mention overcoming despair because sure he is being released from the asylum but he plans on going to London "to become part of  the crowd, see faces and hear laughter..", so there is still hope for this character.

 

Both Ministry of Fear and M open with dark images and heavy shadows suggesting an omnipresent fear reinforced by the music score in Ministry and by the children singing in M.   The big difference being that Neale (Ray Milland) is getting out of a stagnant, dreadful existence or so we think.   In M we are led through the dark city streets, victim to victim, not knowing for the longest time if we will escape this nightmare.

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