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"Listeningness" in HANGMEN ALSO DIE

by The Cine-Files

In HANGMEN ALSO DIE, it seems, both knowing German and not knowing German can produce parallel dangers. The scene is theater within theater: like Czaka, the camera is invited to the table through a lowering menu and a crisscross of bodies like a curtain parting for a play beyond a proscenium arch. Czaka sits across the table from the purported audience of the joke “on stage,” tempted to look while within earshot of a burlesque designed so that he cannot help but listen and picture its content, inevitably vocalizing with a “tell.” It is surely a trap, but not quite a trap for the “mind and the eye” as Thomas Elsaesser might characterize it – more like a trap for the eye of the mind. [12] We watch the rebel leader observe signs of awareness cross Czaka’s face, then finally hear his unrestrained laughter emerge off-screen, seemingly bursting from inside the false and fading laughter of the three performers in front of him. In exhibiting listening, Czaka is revealed to be the object of listening and the listener-in-hiding all at once. When the camera cuts back to the unmasked Quisling, he is swaying with laughter that abruptly dies, replaced with the silent stares of his companions in a highly paranoid vortex of eyes seen in POV. The “actors” on the far end of the table now accuse the “actor” on the near end. In this way, the Langian device of the unguarded moment produces an accusatory and dialectical breakage of a “fourth wall,” perhaps the one shot of the film in which the best-known elements of the aesthetics of Lang and Brecht interlock seamlessly.

-Neil Verma

The complete text of Neil Verma's piece can be found in the current issue of The Cine-Files at

"Listeningness" in HANGMEN ALSO DIE

HANGMEN ALSO DIE presents a texture of "listeningness" that is common among wartime films, but difficult to pinpoint.

from Hangmen Also Die (1943)
Creator: Fritz Lang
Distributor: Kino Video
Posted by The Cine-Files