The scene above is taken from Fritz Lang’s M, a pre noir expressionist thriller about one child murderer’s effect on an entire city. Peter Lorre, of The Maltese Falcon fame, plays the main character, a deranged psychopath who is a serial child murderer and suggested pedophile. The little girl above stands in front of a shop window, just browsing some books. There’s this whirling black and white thingey and a huge arrow that moves up and down in the display that are used to attract attention to the store. Here though, they signify the target, the quarry that the unseen killer is chasing.

I quite liked the film itself and didn’t quite realize how well conceived everything was despite the fact that it was from 1931 til reading reviews of it later. It’s quite gripping and rather minimalist in its suspense, using whilsting of a song or an image of a stray balloon trapped amongst the telegraph wires to convey a sense of dread.

The child murderer is causing so much commotion in the film that the police is going nuts, so much so that even the underworld decides that enough is enough and that they would hunt for the killer too. A manhunt by 2 completely opposing segments of society begins and culminates in 2 different methods through which the criminal is found. When he does get caught, we get a staged trial, wherein we are exposed to the possible justification of such crime, insanity. A second, legal trial then takes place and we are introduced to the unrelenting grief of the mothers’. It’s a thriller that asks what is right and what is wrong, what is legal/just, good/evil…

I suppose most people would agree that child murderers are evil. But what if they can’t control themselves and the nature is inbuilt into them, are they then still evil or should society be stern and eradicate them? Would we be ridding ourselves of something that’s really bad or something we hope we never become?

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