M (1931 Film) Literary Elements

M (1931 Film) Literary Elements


Fritz Lang

Leading Actors/Actresses

Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Gustaf Gründgens

Supporting Actors/Actresses

Ellen Widmann, Theodor Loos, Friedrich Gnaß


Drama, Thriller




Nominated as one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies, one of the Top Foreign films

Date of Release

11th, May, 1931


Seymour Nebenzal

Setting and Context

Berlin, Germany, 1930. In the twilight of the Weimar Republic

Narrator and Point of View

third person omniscient

Tone and Mood

unsettling, suspenseful, intriguing

Protagonist and Antagonist

Inspector Lohmann is the protagonist. The criminals of the underworld are the antagonists. The serial killer Beckert can be considered both as the protagonist and the antagonist.

Major Conflict

Both the police and the underworld seek to hunt down Beckert, while Beckert tries to remain free.


When the serial killer Beckert notices the chalk mark M on his back, he realizes that his identity as the murderer has been disclosed.


When the children in the courtyard chant a song about the murder of children, it foreshadows Elsie’s murder.


The details of Elsie’s murder are understated. The audience does not know by what means did she meet her death, because the films in the 1930s do not allow the graphic depiction of murder on screens.

Innovations in Filming or Lighting or Camera Techniques

There are many overhead shots. In these overhead shots, the characters look anonymous because we do not see their faces. Most of the characters in the city are presented in this impersonal fashion, through overhead shots. The audience cannot form attachment to most of the characters in the film because we do not see their faces very clearly.


When the leader of the underworld repeated calls for Beckert to be eliminated, the director alludes to the Nazi rhetoric. The Nazis are known for advocating the elimination of the Jews. Schränker’s speeches pay frequent allusions to Hitler’s mode of speech. Schränker himself can also be called as representation of Hitler. Not only does he employs Hitler’s mode of speech, he also fully endorses his methods.


The criminals of the underworld say that Beckert is not a man but a beast. However, they go on to refer to him as a man. It is therefore a paradox, because if Beckert is a beast then he cannot be a man, but the criminals continue to call him a man.


The police and the underworld are portrayed as parallel forces. Both of them seek to hunt down the serial killer. Both of them hold meetings to discuss their tactics. Both of them hold a trial for Beckert. The police tries Beckert under a legal court, while the underworld tries him in a kangaroo court. The director use cross-cutting techniques to portray them as parallel forces that mirror each other.

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