4.0, Europe


Life as Fiction (Through Time)

M by Fritz Lang is the yearly favorite from 1931 as listed in Life as Fiction (Through Time): An Exercise in the Clockwork and Constriction of Cinematic History, a project to chronicle my favorite film from each year since 1921.

1931 / Fritz Lang > How does M hold up to the test of time over similar cinema of the past (and recent times) that eventually fade from memory? Unlike others in the genre which have lost their luster due to overused plot twists, a simple sense of age or technical awkwardness, M stands firm because Lang’s filming is claustrophobic but not overdone. His storytelling is imaginative but coherent. His treatment of the villain is respectful but not apologetic. In fact, it still supersedes most of its successors in terms of intelligence and overall composition.

Nowadays, tension in serial killer films seem necessary to be represented throughout the running time. However, in M, the great beauty is in its objectivity. The serial killer himself—and his capture—is only part of the game. The cops and robbers, the bystanders and victims, they all play a part in the total landscape without overshadowing the other. Moreover, it’s impossible not to see what it’s influenced (most notably, in my mind, was Sympathy for Lady Vengeance). Increasingly, this is one of the few classics where a modern remake would be interesting just to see if 80 years of technology and know-how could actually trump the original.

Originally posted on July 10, 2007 before inclusion into (Through Time).