Thursday, 18 June 2009

The archive #1: M (1931)

Starting a semi-regular feature of short articles recommending classic films, hidden gems, or the just plain misunderstood, is M, Fritz Lang's masterful crime thriller. Whilst Metropolis may well be his most famous work, M is his masterpiece and a far more complete and engaging work. Following the hunt for a child-murderer by police, the local community and even fellow criminals, its subject matter was extremely provocative for the time; dealing with issues that are still disturbing for modern audiences. It is a film that was years ahead of its time and it remains one of the pioneers of the film-noir genre, employing a dark style and ingenious use of shadows.

What is remarkable about this film, is that 78 years later it still has the power to shock and get under your skin. This is not least because of a star-making turn from Peter Lorre as the villain, who makes one of cinema's greatest ever speeches, including the now legendary (translated) line: "Who knows what it's like to be me?" I won't give away the ending, but more than anything else the film is a remarkable study of human nature, both in the mentality of a murderer and the way a community reacts to him. In an ever paranoid and vigilant society, the content of the film is still incredibly relevant today, and the actions of the characters remain highly believable.

This is arguably the greatest film to ever come out of Germany and if you ever happen to stumble across it, watch it, and you will not be disappointed.

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