Fritz Lang’s M elevates the procedural genre by understanding that the particularities of the central case are not the main source of interest for such stories.

By basically removing the usual “main detective” character’s investigation as the throughline — a tropey narrative-device that justifies cheap exposition-dumps disguised as the next suspect-interview towards solving the mystery — this 1931 movie becomes a study of how a community responds to crime, and what the resulting behavior says about human nature. Such commentary is evergreen, but considering what was happening in Germany at the time, and especially what was about to happen, the movie takes on even greater resonance; I couldn’t stop wondering what became of the lives of everyone involved in this German production.

Then again, the idea that how a society handles a crisis — inspiring enhanced humanity counterbalanced (or maybe even imbalanced) by rampant dehumanization — can be more revealing than the crisis itself is, well, I wonder how that could speak to the moment we find ourselves in today…

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