Log in

No account? Create an account
24 September 2003 @ 10:31 am
Patterns of Perception - The Power of Absence  
Last evening I went to see Fritz Lang's M at a local repertory cinema; and while I immensely enjoyed watching this dark and masterfully narrated tale of a town hunting down a child-killer (young Peter Lorre), it also made me wonder how much my own abitlity to perceive and to interpret visual images is shaped by the kind of movies with which I grew up. That dominated my childhood and adolescence.

Born in 1975, I am a child of the eighties and early nineties. Indy Jones and Back to the Future , Silence of the Lambs and the first David Fincher films...You get the picture.

To a certain degree all of these movies are artistically reliant on fast narrative pace, colourful visual images and, last but certainly not least, the immense impact of sound effects. It is the way of storytelling I am used to, perhaps my "film viewer mother tongue" which makes me feel at home and comfortable with what I'm seeing.

Filmed in 1931, M , however, stems from the era of early "talkies". Visually, it is still full of all the techniques that silent/expressionistic German movie making is so famous for (shadows, distorted camera angles, stark production design). Apart from a few enhanced, emphasizing noises and the killer's frightening whistle (a tune from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt, "In der Halle des Bergkönigs" if I remember correctly) there is no such thing as a normal soundtrack. And strangely enough it is exactly this lack of mood enhancing melodies and sounds that makes the movie's scenes even more insistent and oppressive.

As a whole, the effect of silence is very similar to that in Buffy's fifth season masterpiece "The Body" (the ep where Buffy returns home only to find her mother's corpse). Mhmmm...makes you wonder how much Joss Whedon knows about early sound films.
Current Mood: pensivepensive
Current Music: My Funny Valentine, Lorenz Hart &Richard Rodgers
Selenaselenak on September 24th, 2003 04:36 am (UTC)
at my first...
...seminar about silent films I had a similar experience. It was like learning a new language.

rozk recently also watched M and wrote down her impressions here - very worth reading, since she's one generation earlier than us and of course a very smart person.
(Anonymous) on September 24th, 2003 07:56 am (UTC)
Re: at my first...
Guys, I really need to get myself a live journal account, I hate being anonymous ;-).

Anyhow: Thanks for posting rozk`s review. How I envy her and bimo for the experience of watching this for the first time. I sometimes feel like old grandpa (although I'm only 34, really), telling folks to watch this classic or that, having known most of them for years.
I grew up with the stuff, having a local cinema showing classics (for only 3DM!!) in five minutes walking distance to my parents flat. (I still keep a ticket dating from that time for sentimental reasons.) This was in the late eighties and early nineties. Easy Rider, silent classics of all kind (ever seen the Douglas Fairbanks' Robin Hood on the silver screen?), Coppola, Kubrick, The Ten Commandments, or Billy Wilder; you name it.

I do remember when I was kind of sixteen and watched 2001 for the very fist time. I did not understand it. I was puzzled. I had been a Star Wars fan up till then. It changed my view on what cinema is (or can be) forever. I think most classics do.

Fritz Lang's film is disturbing and hauting; it remains so more than 70 years after it was made. It finds its way over to people, who, like most of us, grew up with quite differet images. So, yes, this _is_ what a good movie is like.

Selenaselenak on September 25th, 2003 08:36 am (UTC)
among us senior sexy citizens...
...since I'm going to be 34 in two days precisely: I recommend like a madwoman, too. Though I didn't watch any of the classics on the big screen, just the small screen, until I came to Munich to study.
(Anonymous) on September 26th, 2003 07:34 am (UTC)
Re: among us senior sexy citizens...

thanks for the "sexy senior citizen", I take this as a compliment.
try: http://www.epigonen.net/main%20pages/Impressum.htm

And a Happy Birthday (to come). Not that it really matters, but it one day after my mother's. She was born 62 years ago to the day, at one in the morning in a small village in east prussia. The night saw the first frost of the year 1941.
And if you care for coincidences, my mother spent the greater part of her youth on the Isle of Rügen ;-)

Btw.: (this a kind of cross reference here)

>Note to self: must encourage bimo to make
>more comments about droolworthiness of guys or
>lack of same. It encourages discussion.

Are you sure she will? Publicly? *gg*

Selenaselenak on September 28th, 2003 01:59 am (UTC)
she already did...
...in a comment to my multiple-pov-theory. We're talking fictional guys here, though.
Ide Cyanide_cyan on September 26th, 2003 01:48 am (UTC)
Yes, that's the tune.

It bugged the hell out of me when a local TV show had its villain of the week whistling it. (A fromage doesn't count as a hommage.)

I saw M on DVD, myself. I'm just a little younger than you are, but I remember being exposed to silent films (my dad's Charlie Chaplin tapes) as a kid.