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by Danny Baldwin

Produced not long after the advent of sound film, Fritz Lang's "M" is widely cited as significant for its experimentation with the new technology. Notice how sound is used to give the audience a window into the mad, perverse psyche of child killer Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre). When he first lays eyes on a potential victim in the reflection of a storefront window, all the diegetic sounds of street noise dissolve into silence, for he cannot focus on anything but her. Then, Lang employs the film's distinguishing aural motif—Beckert's whistle (of Edward Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King")—to suggest how geographically close he is to the victim without showing him in the shot. As his whistling becomes louder, the tension becomes unbearable.

M (Lang, 1931) — Whistle While You Prey

Peter Lorre's child murderer Hans Beckert zeroes in on a potential target in "M."

from M (1931)
Creator: Fritz Lang
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Posted by Danny Baldwin