Great choice Allaby! I’ve been meaning to see M for a very long time.
I didn’t particularly like Lorre’s overall performance. Maybe it’s his distinct eyes that made his expressions look a bit over-exaggerated. But I found his final monologue very engaging. I guess I found it a big over the top, but maybe that was the desired effect and I just missed it.
I think it holds up today. The story is still relevant. The filmmaking is inventive and interesting. I found the pace a little slow, but that’s something that films today also have, so I don’t think it’s something that’d date it.
Regarding the message, I thought there were a few.
How mass hysteria and the mob mentality could make people act reactionary or irrationally (can’t figure which term is more fitting). People become paranoid and look at those around them with suspicion, and how some act violently based purely on those suspicions, without any proof. And that led pretty much to a People’s Court, that dispensed death sentences on sentiment alone.
Inadequacy of and mistrust in the authorities. How many murders were committed before the authorities really started making an effort and held a meeting about strategy? Not to mention they had him (correct?) in a mental hospital and released him. It took the criminals organizing a mass effort to cover every inch of the city for the man to be caught, and even then the authorities were pretty oblivious and came in at the last second. And the people at the trial didn’t want to give him over to the police, because they didn’t trust they’d punish him effectively.
Hypocrisy and the nature of a killer. Lorre’s character acted on impulse, so could he really be held fully accountable for his actions? He was clearly ill, and though he should be put away and punished, his crimes can’t be judged the same way other’s are. Now the Safecracker was also a murderer. And he was pretty nonchalant about killing (occupational hazard he called it at one point). And that was the man in charge of the trial. Where Lorre had a compulsion, the others committed crime in a more calculated and removed manner. They can avoid it, but chose not to. And also Lorre’s character I thought felt a bit of remorse, I didn’t see much in the other criminals.
Those are maybe more themes, than messages I guess lol. But a true message is “Look over the children”. Not just when there’s a murderer on the loose, not when it harms your business. But all the time. This all could’ve been avoided if people were cautiously vigilant and paid attention to the children all the time. This is evident in the woman telling the children not to sing that song in the opening scene (maybe I read it wrong, so feel free to correct me). She was paying attention to what they were doing. And the end with the mother saying “This won’t bring back our children”. What’s the use of justice after the fact, if harm’s already been done? What’s useful is prevention.
Overall I liked it. Thought it did move a bit slow for me and at points was a bit dull. But the trial at the end was very griping, I couldn’t look away. And the lack of music, and sound at some places, was a bit odd. I couldn’t figure why that was done. Visually I found it very interesting. The compass drawing the area they were investigating, and all the bits of visual storytelling. I also liked the parallel editing of the meetings of the authorities and the criminals. And the little bits of humor here and there were nice.
An excellent analysis, Mina.
Marvelous post. Wonderful read! I agree with everything.