A post that’s so late, it’s effectively posthumous, or M (1931)

I’m easily scared. Though an avid mystery reader throughout my younger years, the on-screen thriller genre rubs me the wrong way. Thankfully, M is not one of these. Censorship laws of the 1930s concerning the amounts of blood and violence shown in a movie (a movie about a series of brutal child murders!) help leave enough to the imagination that the only shock value is in Peter Lorre’s eyes.

I instantly recognized the logo of the movie as a plot device, ala The Scarlet Letter, in which a woman is forced to wear a bright red “A” on her clothing to indicate that she committed adultery.

Off-screen space: My first impression of the film was that the frame size seemed uncomfortably small. Coupled with the large areas of shadow throughout the movie, it gave a sense of anxiety as the light areas of the screen were slowly compressed by the darkness.

Sound: Noticably missing, especially in tense moments, is background music. Music in movies especially in present day North America is often used to manipulate the viewer’s mood. In the absense of this, when the still in the room mirrors the absolute quiet onscreen, the viewer’s on breath and heartbeat magnify the tension further and further almost until even the prickle of hairs on the back of the neck can be heard.
My overactive imagination jumped to assuming that the murderer was whistling a Tchaikovsky song, because it sounded orchestral and was the type of song that remains in the subconscious until prodded by an external stimulus. Went home and Googled. It’s called In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg (can’t win them all).
In the Hall of the Mountain King (Lego version)
Lyric-wise, the song is appropriate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Hall_of_the_Mountain_King
“Slay him! The Christian’s son has bewitched
The Mountain King’s fairest daughter…
May I hack him on the fingers?
May I tug him by the hair?
Hu, hey, let me bite him in the haunches!
Shall he be boiled into broth and bree?
Shall he roast on a spit or be browned in a stewpan?
Ice to your blood, friends!”
It is a summery of what the murderer does (bewitch the daughters of the citizens) and forshadows his end (being found out and tried/attacked by those sympathetic to his victims).

One of the funniest scenes for me was of the respective councils between the policemen and the underworld bosses. Honour among thieves comes to mind, as well as the thieves’ and assassins’ guilds Terry Pratchett’s Diskworld novel series. It is the implication that crime has a form of unity driving it behind the scenes, and that it is an essential part of a thriving community. Though the underworld must play in tangent with the laws of society, it is by definition expected to break them, which gives the thieves and beggars the freedom to do anything they deemed necessary to bring the murderer to justice.

Next up, Lady Eve (and for some reason I keep wanting to say Parasite Eve…)

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About Chiara Johnson

Sci-fi/fantasy/anime dork Culinary school aspirations Knits best while listening to Mastadon's Leviathan album 7-11 cups, pizza rolls and MMORPGs past midnight Unconventional is an understatement.
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7 Responses to A post that’s so late, it’s effectively posthumous, or M (1931)

  1. I completely agree with your comment on the use of music in modern cinema. The music tells the audience how to feel about what they are watching.

  2. I feel you on the thrillers rubbing you the wrong way! I was nervous to watch this film, just like I am to watch “Psycho,” but that’s besides the point.

    I’m glad someone else thought about “The Scarlet Letter.” The use of the ‘A’ and the ‘M’ the teenager put on Peter Lorre played the same part. It was used to bring attention to these people and make their identities known. Of course, Hester Prynne suffered from her letter being used to bring negative attention to her and she knew about her letter, but still!

    And I also agree with you about the importance of background music in films.

  3. ekestler says:

    I agree with you that less bloodshed is better in horror films and films in general. More gore does not equal enjoyment for me. I also found that ending scene funny. The facial expressions of the characters were so comical that you couldn’t take the serious theme of the movie, well, seriously.

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