M (1931 Film) Background

M (1931 Film) Background

The script of M was co-written by the director Fritz Lang and his wife Tea von Harbou. Film commentators like to associate the serial killer in M to Peter Kurten, the infamous serial killer in Weimar Germany who was convicted for nine counts of murder. Peter Kurten was arrested in May, 1930. The script for M was completed in November 193. Therefore, it is very difficult to disassociate M from the context of the Peter Kurten story. M premiered in May 1931, only two weeks after Kurten’s conviction of murder. Although the director Fritz Lang declines to acknowledge that his film was influenced by the story of Peter Kurten, his contemporaries believe that his film had sought to capitalize on the sensation created by the Kurten event. Even the physically corpulent inspector Lohmann in M bears considerable resemblance to the detective assigned to the Peter Kurten case, since the detective of the Kurten case was also extremely fat. However, the serial killer in M only murders children, while the original serial killer who provided the inspiration for this film kills both men, women and children. Fritz Lang initially plans to use the phrase “murderers among us” as the title for this film, but he was compelled to change the title to M under pressure from the Nazis. In this period, the Nazi party had been employing many violent practices in their attempts to gain political power, the original title might lead the audience to suspect that this film was anti-Nazi in its spirit. Joseph Goebbels, the future propaganda minister of the Nazi government, was initially impressed by the film. Since Goebbels perceives this film to be an advocate for capital punishment. Upon watching the film, Goebbels praises M in his diary: “fantastic, against the death penalty, well made!”. He was also impressed by Fritz Lang’s skills as a director and seeks to promote his career. After Goebbels discovers that one of the main actors in M was actually Jewish, the film fell out of his favour. M was deeply rooted in historical context and echoes the social events of its time. There had been an unprecedented number of serial killers In Weimar Germany. Organized crime was one of the defining characteristics of this period. The social instability and economic hardship causes the German society to become extremely violent in its spirit. Serial killing, organized crime, domestic violence, violation of women and molestation of children were common occurrences in Weimar Germany. The films of the Weimar period tend to display an obsessive interest towards crime, murder and the mutilation of the human body. The epidemic of serial killers in Germany was an indication that the Weimar political system was fundamentally unstable and was rapidly becoming dysfunctional.

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