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Berlin: City in the Movies
Posted February 19, 2010 to photo album "Berlin: City in the Movies"
Scott Macaulay clicks through the various characters this city has played.
Slide 3: M - City of Fear
One way a city becomes a character in a movie is when its entire society is brought together against a common threat. In Fritz Lang’s M, his first “talkie,” Peter Lorre stars as a violent child murderer whose crimes unite both official Berlin society, with its courts and judges, and the underworld, who also want to see Lorre’s Hans Beckert stopped. Based on real police reports, M is the quintessential “city in fear” movie, and Lang’s direction, influenced by German Expressionism, creates a psychologically charged urban space from the city’s streets, alleyways and dark shadows. Of course, the 1931’s film proximity to the rise of Nazism gives it another set of associations. As Gary Morris wrote in Bright Lights Film Journal, “The Nazis weren’t thrilled by the film’s original title, Murderers Among Us; they assumed it was about them and tried to squash the production, even going so far as issuing death threats. Of course, in a sense they were correct. M is about more than the landscape of an unbalanced mind. With its palpable air of dread and its direct indictment of mob mentality, the film draws with frightening precision the dark contours of Nazi groupthink.”