We watched it in class, which I guess means it is okay to watch at home. There is some content stuff and it is a generally unnerving movie, so take that into account.
I may be a little terse in this review. I just wrote a tank of an essay on it and Weebly lost it. Yup. As the "Save" Button was loading, I thought, "Maybe I should have copied and pasted this review first." The answer was "Yes, I definitely should have."
I saw this movie years ago. It's messed up. I always put this on the "I should revisit this movie" list, but never got around to it until I had to teach it. In the back of my mind, I loved this movie on aesthetics alone. But this movie has too much going on to simply love it for the imagery.
Since I started with imagery, I had better finish up that thought. The haunting use of shadows and inference is disturbing. Lang intentionally avoids showing Peter Lorre until he is absolutely needed. His shadow, after all, is more menacing. I don't know what inspired the man to pair the shadow with the whistling of "In the Hall of the Mountain King," but it is perhaps a creepier musical choice than Wes Craven's lullaby of choice in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Perhaps this is the birth of the "innocence as creepy" trope, but it works marvelously. The way that Lang paints with the camera continues through the end, showing the rise of the unruly mob to the wounded murderer. The movie, on the whole, is haunting.
Lang also uses M to make the viewer question his or her own existence. (Sorry for lumping in all of humanity for my own insecurities. I wish I could say that this was the first time that this has happened.) The story demands a sense of justice. While watching this, I wanted the killer to be punished. I wanted him to be punished brutally. That sense of mob rule prevailed. I wanted the police to fail. I wanted them to be overcome with their incompetence as the criminals dispensed vigilante justice. I even knew that it was wrong and that it opposed everything I stood for. Yet, I needed it to happen. He held it back from me and I applaud that. But things aren't cookie cutter.
I'm often torn with ambiguous endings. One of my least favorite ambiguous endings was Castaway. There was something cheap about it. M is the ambiguous ending that sticks the landing. It's well deserved. This isn't an easy question to ask. Should vigilante justice replace the police? Are we tying our hands behind our backs as a culture by not doing everything we can to bring killers to justice? I don't know. I know that I will always defend the justice system because I know its inherent value, but I can't provide an answer to how effective that method is.
There's so much going on here. Again, I've written this review before. It was a tank then and now it is a much smaller tank. All I can say is that this movie needs to be seen. The middle, perhaps has become commonplace for us. In a world of a million police dramas, the forensic element no longer has the value it once did. But the movie is powerful and locks Fritz Lang into the pantheon of great directors.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.