M (1931)

Brief Intro

“M” (1931) is a classic German thriller directed by Fritz Lang, often hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. This masterpiece delves into the dark and eerie world of a child murderer in Berlin, capturing the tension and paranoia of a city on edge. With its groundbreaking use of sound and visual storytelling, “M” remains a pivotal work in the history of cinema.

Literary Devices Used in M

Movie SceneDevice Example
The opening scene with children singing a creepy songForeshadowing
The beggars network’s systematic surveillanceIrony
Hans Beckert’s reflection in a store windowSymbolism
The use of shadows to depict Beckert’s presenceImagery
The parallel editing of the police and criminals’ investigationsJuxtaposition
Beckert’s monologue about his compulsionStream of Consciousness
The city-wide manhunt portrayed through quick cutsMontage
The whistling of “In the Hall of the Mountain King”Motif
The kangaroo court held by the criminalsSatire
Beckert’s final plea for understandingPathos


Movie SceneDevice Example
The opening scene with children singing a creepy songThis song hints at the impending danger of the child murderer.
Beckert’s shadow falling over a “WANTED” posterSignals his identity as the killer before he’s revealed.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The beggars network’s systematic surveillanceBeggars, typically seen as powerless, hold significant power here.
Beckert hiding among blind beggarsA sightless community helps capture a murderer who preys on children.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Hans Beckert’s reflection in a store windowReflects his dual identity – outwardly normal, inwardly monstrous.
The balloon caught in the power linesRepresents the innocence and life cut short by Beckert’s actions.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The use of shadows to depict Beckert’s presenceCreates a haunting, ominous atmosphere.
The empty streets of Berlin at nightEmphasizes the isolation and fear within the community.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The parallel editing of the police and criminals’ investigationsHighlights the blurred lines between law and crime.
The orderly world of the police vs. the chaotic underworld of criminalsShows differing approaches to justice and order.

Stream of Consciousness

Movie SceneDevice Example
Beckert’s monologue about his compulsionProvides insight into his disturbed mind.
The voices in Beckert’s head during his breakdownIllustrates his inner turmoil and loss of control.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The city-wide manhunt portrayed through quick cutsBuilds tension and conveys the widespread panic.
The investigation sequence with various suspectsDemonstrates the exhaustive efforts to catch the killer.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The whistling of “In the Hall of the Mountain King”Beckert’s whistling becomes a recurring signal of his presence.
The recurring use of clocks and timeHighlights the urgency and relentless passage of time.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The kangaroo court held by the criminalsCritiques the legal system and societal judgment.
The media frenzy surrounding the caseComments on sensationalism and public hysteria.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Beckert’s final plea for understandingEvokes sympathy and complicates the audience’s feelings towards him.
The grieving mothers of the murdered childrenStirs deep emotional responses and highlights the tragedy.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Hans Beckert

Literary DeviceExplanation
SymbolismBeckert’s reflection symbolizes his duality, embodying both normalcy and monstrosity.
MotifHis whistling signifies his uncontrollable compulsion, marking his presence ominously.

Inspector Lohmann

Literary DeviceExplanation
JuxtapositionHis methodical approach contrasts with the chaotic criminal underworld, highlighting different facets of justice.
IronyDespite his authority, he relies on the criminal network to capture Beckert.

The Criminal Underworld

Literary DeviceExplanation
SatireTheir mock trial criticizes the official legal system and societal hypocrisy.
ImageryTheir dark, shadowy world contrasts with the orderly police force, emphasizing their role in maintaining a different kind of order.

Thematic Analysis

Justice and Law

Literary DeviceExplanation
JuxtapositionContrasting police and criminal investigations shows differing justice systems.
SatireThe criminals’ kangaroo court mocks traditional legal procedures, questioning their effectiveness.

Fear and Paranoia

Literary DeviceExplanation
ImageryThe dark, empty streets evoke a sense of fear and isolation.
MontageRapid cuts during the manhunt sequence build a tense, paranoid atmosphere.

The Duality of Human Nature

Literary DeviceExplanation
SymbolismBeckert’s reflection symbolizes his internal conflict and duality.
MotifThe recurring whistling highlights his uncontrollable, dark impulses.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Visual and Sound Techniques

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismVisual ReflectionsBeckert’s reflection in windows and mirrors emphasizes his dual nature.
MotifSound DesignThe recurring whistling motif is both a narrative and auditory cue for Beckert’s presence.
ImageryLighting and ShadowsThe extensive use of shadows enhances the film’s dark, ominous tone.
MontageEditingQuick cuts during key sequences create tension and convey the urgency of the manhunt.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene 1: Beckert’s Monologue

  • YouTube Link: Beckert’s Monologue
  • Breakdown: Beckert’s desperate plea for understanding in the kangaroo court reveals his inner turmoil, utilizing stream of consciousness and pathos to evoke a complex emotional response from the audience.

Scene 2: The City-Wide Manhunt

  • YouTube Link: City-Wide Manhunt
  • Breakdown: The frantic search for the child murderer, depicted through rapid montage and juxtaposition, builds tension and portrays the widespread fear and urgency in Berlin.


Interactive Multiple Choice Quiz:

  1. What literary device is used when Beckert’s shadow appears over the “WANTED” poster?
  2. Which device is exemplified by Beckert’s whistling?
  3. How does the film critique the legal system?
    • A) Through Beckert’s final plea
    • B) Through the kangaroo court held by criminals
    • C) Through the police investigation methods