Essay about Fritz Lang M: Analysis

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Fritz Lang's M (1931), contains both dialogue sequences and silent sequences with music or sound effects. Lang edited the sound as if he were editing the visuals.
We are introduced to the murder in shadow when he speaks to a young girl, Elsie. We hear the conversation he makes with her, but we see only his shadow, which is ironically shown on a reward poster for his capture.
Lang then set up a parallel action sequence by intercutting shots of the murderer with the young girl's mother. The culmination of the scene relies wholly on sound for its continuity. The mother calls out for her child. Each time she calls for Elsie, we see a different visual: out of the window of home, down the stairs, out into the yard where the laundry
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Without showing a drop of blood to the audience, Lang deftly conveys to the audience that Elsie is never coming home again.


In that opening a child is shown playing with a ball. These shots are intercut with shots of the child's mother setting the table for a meal. As the scenes progress, it becomes evident that someone is following the child. Meanwhile, the mother completes the table setting. The last shot in the scene shows the ball rolling away. Where is the child?


In the next shot we see the unknown man for the first time, but only from behind, as he buys Elsie a balloon froma blind pedlar. He begins to whistle, off-key, a few bars of Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King. The whistled tune becomes a gruesome leitmotif indicating that the murderer is on the prowl.
Frau Beckmann, worried about her daughter, leans over the bannister of the stair-well and cries, 'Elsie!' The cry resounds through the block of flats and an empty loft. The murder is not shown. Instead Lang supplies a series of images - Frau Beckmann's cries echoing over shots of the empty building, Elsie's vacant place at table, Elsie's ball rolling from beneath a bush and her new balloon caught in telegraph wires - and leaves the audience to imagine the crime itself.

Theme human nature … themes of psychological conflict, paranoia, fate and moral