Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney
rozk

Oh. that's what a good movie is like.

There are works of art you find yourself experiencing for the first time. And it is like you always knew what they were like - that knowledge was always there. This is the reason why sometimes they feel like they are full of cliches and quotations - you know other people's homages and plagiarisms and imitations and ripoffs so well that the original comes with a lot of baggage.

I just watched Fritz Lang's M.

In a newly restored edition. But I really hadn't ever seen it before.

I knew it was kind of Brecht and Weill, and German Expressionism, and that Peter Lorre was in it as one of the first serial killers on screen, and that the Nazis banned it, and that it has a scene where a little girl's ball rolls away and you know she is dead, and a scene where the killer's shadow falls on a notice about his killings, and that he gets chased by beggars, and that he is identified by the fact that he whistles In the Hall of the Mountain King, and that they smear a letter M in chalk on his coat and that is how the beggars trail him and the crooks catch him.

I knew quite a lot about it, really. And I didn't know anything in a sense, because I hadn't actually seen it.

It is a nightmare. It is uncomfortable. We know so much more about what was to come. The police are prepared to do anything to catch him, destroy all civil liberties and rights on a temporary basis - and yet it is solid dogged legwork that means they identify him. The criminals are after him for a number of reasons - the whores want him dead because many of them are mothers and the bosses want him dead because he is in their way. And somehow you know that some of those cops and many of those criminals voted for the Nazis a year or so later.

There are ironies that make it an even greater film than it was when it was made. The killer is incarcerated in an asylum at the end and you know he will have been murdered there in 1938 or so. He is a blank little man and at the same time terrifyingly articulate - Lorre was never finer.

Over the next few days, I have to watch all the interviews and documentaries and I normally find that a bore, but I just want to know more about this brilliant film - I am so glad I never watched it until now, because I have had other great films to love and now I have another one to add to the list.
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