Thieving Of Attention

M (1931)
A Review By Ben Hunter
5 Out Of 5 Stars


It stole my attention and refused to return it until the end! 


Berlin, 1931, a group of children are playing in a circle.  Their shadows on the ground resemble a sundial indicating time.  As they toss a ball amongst each other, the theme of “time” becomes more prevalent … “time is ticking” the clock is running out.  Soon, very soon, one of these children amongst a large handful of previous others would be missing! 

Writer/Director Fritz Lang (Clash By Night, Metropolis) takes us on this suspenseful, and unmitigated journey of a desperate neighborhood in Berlin’s reality of unearthing a child molester/serial killer.  This is M.

“M” is for “murderer”, a clever way the criminal bosses of Berlin took matters into their own hands and discovered how to mark the serial killer once they find a way to discover him.  Peter Lorre (Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Arsenic and Old Lace), most known for his work in comedies prior to stepping into what would become some of the all time greatest classics in the history of cinema, escorts us into the mind of infamy.  Accompanying us to discover what it means to know your behavior is misconstrued, yet to continue in such behavior. 

I literally could not look away.  Not just because this is in German and is one of Lang’s most known work in his entire career.  This was done before he came to America and the nature of German culture is all over this film.  Natural German accents, in all their bleak, truly feel natural, as with any naturally spoken language.  However, maybe it’s the severity of the syllables that give the language its influence in my book.  Combine this with the emotion of the neighborhood, the women in morning of their lost children and fear of the ones left, the men feeling helpless, the extreme titillation of “passion” amongst everyone.  A passion to find this serial killer and bring him to justice … by any means necessary.  So the crime bosses step in and take matters into their own hands with origins of a Red Dawn, wolverine-like action with the homeless and the blind, etc. to discover the identity of the infamous.  So suspense, intrigue, mystery, subtle cues that lead to clues that inch them closer and closer to a possible fruition.  Kangaroo Courts, anger & hatred, heaps of “passion”, heaps of emotion … I literally could not look away. 

This is a classic in film history, not just German history.  In the mid 90’s film critics voted it the best German film … period.  However, it’s just an amazing film … period. 

Crime/Thriller (German), 99 Minutes, R
Based on crimes of the 1920’s
And an Article by: Egon Jacobson
Screenplay by: Thea von Harbou, and Fritz Lang
Directed by: Fritz Lang
Cast: Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut

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