M (1931)

Well I liked this movie before we even saw simply because I like a lot of things German.  But I did like the film for what it is.  There were many little things that made the movie cool.

The first thing I noticed was the use of off-screen sound.  An example would be in the beginning of the film when the little girl is going home from school and she is about to cross the street and you hear the sound of a bus coming.  It may have been nothing to worry about but I thought for some reason the bus was going to hit her.  I don’t know, it was just loud and sounded like it was right next to her.  Now that I think about it, of course she wasn’t going to be hit, the movie is a about a murderer not a bus accident.  The other use of off-screen sound I can think about was when the newspaper guy was saying “Extra! Extra!” while the screen was black.  By the way, the screen went black after the image of the now murdered little girl balloon was tangled in the wires.  Maybe they had sound with a black screen to add more drama to her death.  It was like saying after death of an innocent child comes nothing but darkness but when he hear the newspaper guy its like ok we are done mourning now lets move on.

Another thing I noticed was the lack of background music in the movie.  Maybe its just me but it felt quiet most of the time.  In movies today there seems to be a lot of background music (even if its just a low low low volume) while people are having a regular conversation even.

The murder scene of the girl i spoke about earlier was interesting because they never showed the actual murder, just her ball rolling on the ground slightly and the balloon in the wire.  I’m sure that people think not showing the murder and replacing it with those objects was a creepier way of doing things because its lets you imagine what happened to her but it would have been as equally creepy or even creepier if they showed the murder.  But then again, I don’t know if I would be able to stomach seeing a gruesome murder of a child.

One thing that definitely stood out to me and probably to most of you was the whistling.  Every time there was whistling it meant that the murderer was near.  I thought that was a clever way of signaling us that.  It was also strange because the whistling could be seen as both diegetic and non-diegetic sound (and no I’m not trying to use fancy college words, I just really saw it as that). Diegetic because I think one time the murderer heard the whistling plus the person who is doing the whistling is in the movie. Non-Diegetic because it doesn’t seem like anyone else in the film have/would have heard it even if they were near the whistler. Its like the whistle was specifically for our and the murders ears.

Oh now that I think about it, the best use of off-screen sound was at the end when the police came into the mock trial area.  You heard the police but only saw the “mob” raise their hands.  That was definitely cool and made that scene more entertaining because you see the crowds surprised facial expressions.

P.S. Did anyone else notice that unwanted crotch shot of inspector Lohmann while he was sitting at his desk?  What was Lang thinking? Ew.

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Posted by cjenkins   @   17 September 2010

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Sep 20, 2010
5:37 pm
#1 itsumoyume :

Oh! Shoot, I totally forgot about the “crotch” shot. I’m not sure if it was a useless shot though. In my perspective that shot was quite useful in a way to show athority. It showed us that Lohmann was a huge guy in the department [yes this is to be taken as a pun] and that in the office he has a very relaxed attitude. Outside of the office he may seem like he’s hard working and focused, but inside the office it’s as if he’s taking his time. He isn’t in a rush about the murderer at all. He’s eased into his chair, shoes off and just taking it easy. And in the position the camera was in, it showed that while taking it easy he had power, authority. [Makes me…dislike him…]

Oct 11, 2010
9:04 pm

The murder scene with the child was done exceptionally well. Especially since imagination nearly always out-does reality. Its like the common case of expectation vs. reality. The modern viewer like ourselves may be anticipating a gruesome murder scene, but in 1930’s cinema a child murder would have been an appalling image. Thankfully Lang spared us on the details.

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