Lockdowns have forced people into their homes, and they have started watching more movies. So here is a masterpiece you must watch – the movie ‘M’. This movie will remind you of the tragedy of little Zainab and other babies, innocent lives extinguished at the hands of Imran Ali, a glutton in the Pakistani city of Kasur – near Lahore. But Fritz Lang’s masterpiece was made in 1931, set in the German town of Berlin – criminals like Imran exit everywhere prying upon innocents like Zainab and Elsie Beckmann.
This movie – though it deals with tragedy – can be watched with the family as it doesn’t contain any violent acts.
I recommend this movie because it is perhaps only one of its kind and I suspect that such a powerful art product on this subject has not been made again. May be this explains why this old movie of 1931 – the first sound movie by Lang was recreated in 1990’s – Fritz Lang, as director, has set the stage for modern serial killer movies.
'Serial killer' arrested over rape and murder of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari https://t.co/VlrCu3S2kI
— The Independent (@Independent) January 23, 2018
This movie broadens our horizons and raises many difficult questions – but isn’t this the function of true art?
Though “Movie-M” was set in Berlin, in Germany but its theme is universal. Any gory incident happening anywhere, even in our society, can find expression in this movie’s picturization- how a society feels collectively and reacts to such heinous acts. M is one of the movies which has inspired me in many ways. This is the kind of cinematography that arouses our interest in knowing the psyche of the criminals, the response of the authorities, the reaction of the general public and the victims. For media persons it is a tutorial in content making, storytelling and much more.
How I ended up watching a 1930’s masterpiece? Anurag Kashyap, who directed Gangs of Wesseypur and other movies on crime, had recommended this movie in an interview which I happened to watch accidentally – and I thank that moment.
Read more: Justice is served: Zainab’s rapist hanged to death
First thing to note, for an avid film watcher, is that M is scripted slightly different than a traditional long-form screen play. It introduces the arguments and supplies the evidence for the public debate on the screen and the one inside our heads. It never reaches a definitive conclusion instead the audience is left to make its own judgement. Most Pakistanis gave their verdicts during Zainab incident as the evidence started to surface – many demanded to hang the offender. This movie gives you the opportunity to examine the evidence and give the verdict.
Today is the 85th anniversary of Fritz Lang’s ‘M.’ RT if your introduction to the movie was through MTV’s promo. pic.twitter.com/ZCcx0V6BVK
— Film School Rejects (@rejectnation) May 11, 2016
Lang asks us to examine a philosophical question right at the outset. There are no mysteries. The first few minutes of the film reveal to us almost everything we need to know. A child killer is terrorizing the city of Berlin. Children sing songs about him, and frantic parents worry over the safety of their children.
The scene of the soon-to-be killed, Elsie Beckmann being helped across the road lets us understand that this is a sensitive society where people normally care for their most vulnerable. The film then shows us the shadow of a murderer (Beckett) across his own wanted poster, listing his horrific crimes – questioning us how to react to a child killer loose in the city?
Saw the Fritz Lang movie M (1931). I really liked it, the movie was really building up to something thoughtful. pic.twitter.com/e2x0JHyuQv
— scope filter (@scopefilter) October 3, 2015
Such is the medium of film; such is its nature, that a filmmaker can give his audience a three dimensional view allowing them to examine the evidence from all angles.
Lang thus shows us the traumatic effects, of this string of murders, on the psyche of the town. Suspicion and tension build between people who point fingers at each other for being the murderer.
We, sitting in front of the screen, see how it affects the parents, the public, the police and organized crime. We see a psychologist analyze the handwritings that show clear signs of insanity of the murderer. It hints that serial killer not only murders but can also do more than that.
Re-watched part of M last night (the Fritz Lang original) and was impressed again by how instantly compelling it is. The movie drops you right into the middle of this dark world and establishes the geography and the community immediately, with very little dialogue.
— Matt Zoller Seitz (@mattzollerseitz) February 4, 2019
Lang helps us understand the dynamics of a psychopathic mind – as we see the murderer struggle to contain himself. We see him scared and alone. But we never feel sympathy for Beckett, because at the same time we see the effects of his crime; heartbroken parents and a town torn apart by fear and paranoia.
In the final scenes of the film, Beckett is caught by a mob and is taken to an underground trial.
We hear the townspeople and the prosecutor, the accused and his defense. This self-declared court maintains that Beckett must be killed; to let him live is to risk him killing again. Beckett argues that the murders were beyond his control and he isn’t responsible for his actions.
Read more: Should Zainab’s murderer be hanged publicly?
Just as the crowd is about to kill Beckett, the police arrives, and he is taken to a real court. But before the judge can give his verdict the film fades to black. It leaves upon audience to pronounce their judgement using the evidence presented to them throughout the film to come to their decision.
I would urge you to watch Lang’s masterpiece and see what verdict you would like to pronounce.
Fahad Aziz Taherani is Assistant Editor at Global Village Space (GVS) News Portal and Magazine. He has done Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resource Management. He has a keen interest in Civil Superior Services of Pakistan.