2 August 2008

M by Lang, 1931

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 9:32 am

But I can’t help it! I can’t… I really can’t… help it! What would you know? What are you talking about? Who are you anyway? Who are you? All of you. Criminals. Probably proud of it, too… proud you can crack a safe or sneak into houses or cheat at cards. All of which it seems to me you could just as easily give up if you had learned something useful, or if you had jobs or if you weren’t such lazy pigs.

But me? Can I do anything about it? Don’t I have this cursed thing inside me? This fire, this voice, this agony? I have to roam the streets endlessly, always sensing that someone’s following me. It’s me! I’m shadowing myself! Silently… but I still hear it! Yes, sometimes I feel like I’m tracking myself down. I want to run… run away from myself! But I can’t! I can’t escape from myself! I must take the path that it’s driving me down and run and run down endless streets! I want off! And with me run the ghosts of the mothers and children. They never go away. They’re always there! Always! Always!

Except… when I’m doing it… when I… Then I don’t remember a thing. Then I’m standing before a poster, reading what I’ve done. I read and read… I did that? I don’t remember a thing!

But who will believe me? Who knows what it’s like inside me? How it screams and cries out inside me when I have to do it! Don’t want to! Must! Don’t want to! Must! And then a voice cries out, and I can’t listen anymore!

Help! I can’t! I can’t!



  1. Now that i recovered from my amnesia (like Boxer), I remembered how clever this film is given the impossible task it has given itself. Sympathy for a murderer works here because of pretty good dialogue under the circumstances and Lorre so nebbish and always a good actor. Psychotics do ‘have to do their serial murders’. It doesn’t really prove much, and the film is one of Lang’s greatest even though not very good either (because, ultimately, everybody ‘doesn’t know what it’s like to be me’, about anything. it’s endless, and Derrida wanted to make sure nobody did know.)

    This explains why ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ is so perfectly stupid, and why masses of people have no brains at all. Since ‘Brandon Teena’ was murdered by savage rednecks, she seems ‘sympathetic’ and ‘troubled’, and all these people thought what a wonderful movie. But she was tricking the girls not just into thinking she was a boy, but making them think she was fucking them by using dildoes on them. She was raping them, even if she had a ‘sweeter temperament’ than the usual male rapist in Central Park. There’s also a documentary called ‘The Story of Brandon Teena’ that does make you have more sympathy for this sad person, but that’s why a documentary is better for certain things. A fact-based fiction like ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ wants to do all the weepie number for her ‘anomaly’, and totally ignores the use of dildoes. Of course, this milieu is so totally ONLY stupid people that in the docu you find that some of those girls still are ‘sure’ that ‘it’ was the real thing, even though the movie is even realistic enough to know that ‘Brandon’ never allows the girls to touch the…’penis’…

    If she had managed to get out of this situation with getting killed (and even that, though horrible, is halfway understandable with such redneck savagery–OF COURSE they’re not going to put up with some sensitive freak, they won’t even think about the dildo-rapes either: But there’s populism for you, all these sensitive people, they should take over organs of government, since they don’t even know from dildoes…) But the movie succeeded in convincing a dull population that Brandon was ‘innocent’, why? Because she was killed before being discovered to be fucking girls with dildoes unbeknownst to them.

    I brought this up, because now I see that there is an element in ‘M’ which might have made ‘boys Don’t Cry’ make sense, but they would have had to do a delicate balancing act to both proclaim Brandon Teena’s ‘innocence’ and her obvious criminal guilt (because ‘she was just being herself’, but even so, she could have been up for prosecution), and the movie was not exactly an intellectual feast of any kind. So Ms. Swank goes on to play more dykes in varying degrees.


    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 3 August 2008 @ 1:19 pm

  2. Peter Lorre’s monologue (cited in the post) was apparently used by Nazi propagandists. Lorre was Jewish, and they used his speech to characterize innate Jewish corruption — they can’t help it, they’re possessed by evil, etc. This is ironic since Lorre is making his appeal for understanding to a mock jury comprised entirely of criminals, which in the propaganda film would represent the Nazi party operatives. I guess in the Nazi ethos weakness of will is an unforgivable sin.


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 August 2008 @ 1:19 pm

  3. Ultimately, yeah, this film is not convincing, but impressive for even trying. Like ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, he is claiming to deserve understanding by declaring an ‘aura of innocence’ about his own crimes–as if an insane person can really know he is insane, and therefore, be perhaps even more blessed than all these other criminals whose crimes are so petty and ordinary and lesser, that their very mediocrity consigns them to a less noble fate than this Illumined Insane Killer, who yes, is a Killer, but NOT a CRIMINAL like those after him. This is related to the various lefty stances on capital punishment. They are all fairly interesting intellectual contortions, but I have little interest in them any more. I don’t support capital punishment, or recently have not, but now that i think of slow dissolution into a nothing thing in endless prison, I don’t know if people just don’t like capital punishment because of the sense of a huge powerful entity–the state–applying its own ability to kill and/or enforce whatever, just like the individual killer. Lang handles it well, given that, ultimately, for whatever reason of insanity, it’s not convincing he deserves any mercy. But it was an interesting way to look at it. I think the truly unjustly accused, which figure in a lot of his Hollywood films, is a more interesting subject, because the accidents in executing or imprisoning the innocent are a far more serious government crime than putting a terrorist like McVeigh to death. But the leftists are far less concerned with that. I know that I was horrified with the McVeigh execution because purely personally it was very upsetting for there to be a ‘media countdown’ which caused enormous stress on the public, so that I had to avoid it on the day it occurred by keeping all the news off. But looking back on it, I really don’t care that he was executed nearly as much as I do those 2 guys who spent 20 years in jail and were finally proved innocent by DNA evidence. This upsets me enormously, and there have recently been other cases. The ones who have been wrongly put to death are the among the worst crimes against all humanity, and I wonder how often this has happened, with the electric chair and the rest.


    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 3 August 2008 @ 1:39 pm

  4. Rape? It’s not what I would call it, though it’s far from merely an innocent ruse. Hilary Swank was so feminine in this movie I’m surprised her victim didn’t catch on immediately. That was part of the point though, don’t you think, that this girl liked Brandon Teena’s femininity and didn’t want to know whether she was really a boy or not.


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 August 2008 @ 1:39 pm

  5. that this girl liked Brandon Teena’s femininity and didn’t want to know whether she was really a boy or not.

    No, because she also wanted to think the dildo was a real dick.


    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 3 August 2008 @ 1:40 pm

  6. I’d have to see it again — did Brandon actually prevent the girlfriend from checking the authenticity of the dick?


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 August 2008 @ 1:44 pm

  7. It’s like rape in the sense that necrophilia is like a kind of rape. It is a total insult to the body of the other. And I definitely think using a dead body is a total defiling and hateful thing to do. Using a dildo to make a girl think you’re a boy–she may still like the ‘boy’s femininity’, but she in no way wants him to really BE a girl. She like this ‘feminized boy’. But she would not like really having to face that, NO, it absolutely was not a real dick.


    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 3 August 2008 @ 1:45 pm

  8. did Brandon actually prevent the girlfriend from checking the authenticity of the dick

    yes, because she tried to touch it, feel it, and Brandon removed her hand–gently, yes, but big deal. I’m afraid I find it extraordinary that this was given no attention, and the whole thrust of the film was to turn it into this mawkish white-trash ‘sad movies always make me cry’ thing.


    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 3 August 2008 @ 1:49 pm

  9. Returning to M, it’s a case where the premise is more interesting than how it turns out, with the beggars and criminals tracking down the killer, using all their whiles to turn that office building upside down looking for Peter Lorre. But the whole last scene in the deserted warehouse, the trial, was pretty great, regardless of whether the cops showed up or the mothers became more diligent in protecting their children. (This was a strange little moral to the story tagged onto the end, maybe to satisfy the watchdogs that the movie had redeeming social value.)


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 August 2008 @ 1:57 pm

  10. ‘Fritz Lang Studies’ is even more exhaustive than I thought. Not only is the 1922 ‘Dr. Mabuse the Gambler’ four hours long and therefore on 2 discs (I would have never watched it had I known this beforehand, and it frankly is way too long, certain scenes are just indulgent), but it is only the first of three Lang Dr. Mabuse movies. The second is from 1933, The Testimony of Dr. Mabuse, and the third, his last film, The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, is from 1960. He was an extraordinary man, and there’s a book I’m going to read sometime in the next few months to get the details of all this profusion and accomplishment. As it is, the wiki entry on his early life shows you how singularly dramatic he already was well before he even made his first silents, much less all the gems he then made in Hollywood.



    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 9 August 2008 @ 7:39 am

  11. I see somebody on kpunk compared Heath Ledger’s Joker to Peter Lorre’s pedophiliac serial killer in M. In the sense of being an outcast among the “straight” underworld, yes, and there are cinematic maneuvers suggesting that the Lorre character thinks of himself as above the rest. In the screen shots of Lorre making faces at himself in the mirror he’s deliberately trying on masks. All of movie history is a correlational matrix; every movie references every other movie — Derrida territory.


    Comment by ktismatics — 11 August 2008 @ 10:25 am

  12. every movie references every other movie —

    Is that not absurd? That means every play references every other play, every book every other book, or is that what you mean? That every body references every other body? That goes without saying, I believe, and is a species.

    Who the fuck needs Derrida?

    Karl Marx?



    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 11 August 2008 @ 11:40 am

  13. Yes, that’s what I mean: Derrida said in effect that new texts exist only as commentaries on other texts. That’s mostly what he wrote of course, but it’s also part of his structuralist schema: an individual text derives its meaning not in itself, nor in its reference to the world, but by virtue of its position relative to every other text. Says he:

    Whether in the order of spoken or written discourse, no element can function as a sign without referring to another element which itself is not simply present… This interweaving, this textile, is the text produced only in the transformation of another text. Nothing, neither among the elements nor within the system, is anywhere ever simply present or absent. There are only, everywhere, differences and traces of traces. (from Positions, p. 26)

    I can’t be sure, but I’m betting that neither Nolan nor Ledger was thinking about Lang’s M as role model for the Joker. But of course Ledger’s Joker can be compared and contrasted with reference to everyone from Cesar Romero to Barbara Stanwyck as Annie Oakley and something significant can be asserted.


    Comment by ktismatics — 11 August 2008 @ 1:37 pm

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