"M", in a nutshell, is about a young, mentally disturbed man that is murdering children in 1930's Berlin. There are no spoilers in this review.
Taken from my review of the movie on IMDB, 19 May 2011
About three months ago I saw this film for the very first time. It was one of those "eye-opening" experiences for me. I recall being a child and seeing Peter Lorre in movies with Vincent Price and a couple of Bugs Bunny cartoons as the mad scientist. I had always thought that he was a bit creepy. But the first time I saw "M" made me notice Peter Lorre as a man.
I won't include any spoilers, but I did discover some things about this film. It was directed by the great Fritz Lang of "Metropolis" fame and was also the first film about a serial murderer. It gives a rare glimpse of the buildings and general life of pre-war Berlin, touches on the forensics of the day and, in the end, forces the viewer to take mental illness into consideration when dealing with crime in society. It's sudden cut-off at the end of the film was done before in "Metropolis", but here it leaves the audience with a different thought to ponder: what is to be done with people like this that commit these types of crimes? Peter Lorre was extremely convincing in this role that eventually earned him international recognition. At one point in the movie, we get a brief glimpse of his character observing himself in a mirror. We are made to wonder, "What is he thinking when he sees himself there? Does he know who he is or what it is that he has done?" Peter plays the character so well that it is literally the first time I really noticed him. He is young, rotund, not very attractive but something about that particular shot, even at just a few seconds, is striking to me. I noticed his character, felt a kind of disgust mingled with pity, which made me notice Peter Lorre, which made me realise his extraordinary talent to make the audience believe that he is the person that he is playing. Suddenly he becomes very attractive to me. His unusual eyes peer at his reflection and instantly he is type-cast forever in his subsequent films. Another reviewer pointed out that only liberals would have sympathy for Hans Beckert. I have to disagree strongly. Sympathy transcends all political parties. What happens in this movie is the realisation that the mentally disturbed often do NOT have control over their actions and reactions. Their brain chemistry does not function the way it does in a person that is normal. In many cases it leads them to do strange things or even what is the unthinkable. Some of these people do not know or even realise what they have done until after the action has happened. For this I pity Hans Beckert and others like him. If he knew what he was doing he would not have done it. That much is related at the end of the movie. Yet we are still left with the nagging question: what does society do with these dangerous individuals that sometimes do not know what they have done? Is it right to simply imprison them? Should they undergo psychotherapy and eventually be released again or kept in an institution where they will not endanger the members of society beyond the hospital walls? Or shall we demand the ultimate price of them? How can we punish them when oftentimes their crime is not pre-meditated but instead a reaction to their brain's unusual chemistry? The debate goes, I suppose.
I would like very much to have seen Peter Lorre play other roles which he very much wanted to do. Would he have been as good as say, Jimmy Stewart, in "It's A Wonderful Life"? Perhaps we could never imagine him in such a role because of his great talent playing a shady foreigner. Sadly, he is gone now and we will never know how well he might have done them or what impact it could have had on his audiences.
This film is a treasure for movie lovers, particularly for people that love classic cinema, the foundational pieces of art upon which our modern movies are built. Peter Lorre is a man well loved even today and whose talents will endure in the hearts and minds of his admirers.
/ [Dark Side of the Moon
More movie reviews
|Show these comments on your site|