Fritz Lang’s first talkie concerned how we deal with evil.

In 1931, evil and how to solve it in practical terms was the realm of philosophy and the “high” art forms like literature. But director Fritz Lang tackled the subject with guns blazing and sound design whistling in his thriller M.

Peter Lorre’s serial child killer becomes the subject of a manhunt and vigilante justice among criminals is something the director makes us grapple with. What crimes should be forgiven to punish a harsher crime? Where are these grey lines between right and wrong and wronger? He does this by implementing philosophy, law, and psychology into the film – something easier to do when moving from silence to sound.

One Hundred Years of Cinema’s video essay explains how Lang and his wife, screenwriter Thea Von Harbou, wove so many complex themes into a crime flick and how this had an irreversible impact on filmmaking since then.

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