Fritz Lang’s silent epics of intrigue and iniquity had all but invented the crime genre on film, and with M he laid the blueprint for every serial killer film that followed in its wake. While the opening scenes – when a schoolgirl is ominously presented with a balloon by a stranger in silhouette – create an atmosphere of dread, daringly the director later establishes the killer Hans Beckert as a figure of pathos.
Lang is more concerned with a clinical examination of the cross-section of Berlin society – the politicians, the businessmen, the organised criminals – whose self-serving interests are compromised by Beckert’s freedom. Lorre’s creepy, bulging-eyed performance as the killer who can’t help himself quickly attracted the attention of Hollywood, where he made a career playing sinister desperados.
“The greatest of the early talkies.” Andreas Kilb
“M is a dark symphony about Berlin at the dawn of the 20s. A whole era is reflected on the face of one man – a man suffering from “a social evil”, as Lang would say. Hans Beckert, the character played by Peter Lorre, meets the fury of the crowd; they are about to lynch him. But Lang is always on the side of those who try to understand human behaviour.” Miquel Escudero Diéguez
“A film that interrogates the complex, ambiguous nature of the human soul and notions of law and justice, with a mise en scène of rare stylistic perfection that combines German expressionism with the absolute power of offscreen and sound.” Giulio Casadei
“A lively, important work from the early sound era, its ingenious use of audio technique is still worth examining today.” Zhang Ling