The Masterful Sound Design of Fritz Lang’s ‘M’

How what you hear can tell a story as sure as what you see.

In the 1920s, sound started creeping in to motion pictures, first via shorts then later making its feature debut in 1927’s The Jazz Singer. In those first formative years, sound was an accessory, it was a flashy new gimmick and that’s how it was used, for the enjoyment and amusement of the audience. Sound was for musical numbers or punching up comedic scenes, and, of course, for dialogue, but it wasn’t yet considered to be the storytelling element, an equal to film’s visual aspect, that it is today.

Until 1931, that is, and Fritz Lang’s M.

A serial-killer thriller and Lang’s first time working with sound, M is also the first major feature to utilize sound as a narrative and filmmaking tool: it advances the plot, it serves as a transition between scenes, it outs elements not revealed visually, and it provides a score of other ingenious results intelligently detailed in the latest video from Mr. Nerdista entitled: “M: The Importance of Sound Design.”

Sound design, like cinematography and editing, is one of the lesser-heralded storytelling facets unique to cinema, and this video is an excellent primer not just on the history of sound’s introduction to film, but also its importance, impact, and indispensability when it comes to creating a truly complete cinematic experience.