• M (1931) - An overambitious crime flick that hasn't aged very well - 6/10 (04/03/18)

    M (1931)

    M is a quite overrated and underwhelming movie if one takes into consideration masterpieces such as the epic Die Nibelungen and the visionary Metropolis that Fritz Lang has directed before. It tells the story of a crime murderer who is tracked down by desperate police officers who want to stop him and underground gangster who want to dissociate themselves from the murderer and clear their names.

    What really drags this film down is the confusing use of sound in this film. Some scenes feature no sounds at all as if this were a silent movie. Other scenes then suddenly have sound such as loud sirens and lengthy dialogues. The director tried to make these contrasts on purpose but whatever the intention was, it didn't work out very well because the movie is lacking fluidity. Another problem this movie has are its lengthy and at times pseudo-philosophical dialogues. The director wanted to craft a realistic movie and tries to show us the work of the local police force and the work ethics of the underground mob but instead of making the film more authentic, one gets the impression that the gloomy thriller is at times interrupted by lengthy documentary segments. Once again, this weird mixture of genres slows the film down. The movie tried to have a deeper meaning which is that one has to watch one's children carefully but this grounded lesson feels somewhat forced after the surreal trial when the underground mob attempts to sentence a mentally disturbed child murderer. This film received critical acclaim for its main antagonist, played by Peter Lorre. In my opinion, the actor overacts his character which makes him look ridiculous instead of dangerous. The character also speaks too much about his feelings and intentions which isn't realistic for a child murderer that tries to leave no trace behind.

    On the other side, one has to take into consideration the time when this movie was made. Making a film about a child murderer was a quite courageous attempt and revolutionary idea at its time. The movie convinces with a gloomy atmosphere. The opening sequences are quite bleak, the manhunt in the building is filled with tension and the surreal trial at the end is also quite memorable. The movie's opening ten minutes and closing forty minutes are thoroughly entertaining but everything in between drags on for far too long.

    In the end, M can't compete with Fritz Lang's other classics like the epic Die Nibelungen or the science-fiction masterpiece Metropolis. M was a revolutionary movie at its time with a shocking topic and a horrifying atmosphere but the film tries to accomplish too many things all at once such as portraying the work of police forces versus gangsters from the underground. Technically speaking, the movie hasn't aged very well and Peter Lorre's acting also feels exaggerated nowadays. This film is an intriguing product of its time and interesting for those studying the history of cinema but if you are looking for a great crime flick, you can find much better movies made around the same time.

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