Friedrich Christian Anton Lang was a Austrian-German auteur who made such masterworks such as Metropolis, The Big Heat, and The Dr. Mabuse Series. Fritz Lang is a true guerrilla in the way he changed not only cinema but history. A man with such finesse to his craft would ultimately bring the cruel and dark subject matters of Big Brother deception, class segregation, domestic violence, obsession and insanity, the raping of innocence, and child murders to the big screen and grasp the world’s attention.
The key film is Fritz Lang’s M. M is a film that is raw; a mystical dark labyrinth of psychological duality. Brutal, yet there are beautiful metaphors abound for the loss of innocence. It is a grand display of how the antagonist can transcend into being—not only the protagonist—but an anti-hero in sorts. The display of how one character – child killer Hans Beckert, delivered by Peter Lorre in a haunting performance, can be all the roles in the spectrum of narrative form. The shift from antagonist to protagonist comes when he realizes he is a dark soul to society and actively chooses to stop. Then we’re dealt another shift when the society around him takes to merciless, vigilante justice.
Fritz Lang forces the audience to accept that Beckert is a bad man. He also shows us Beckert’s constant struggle and mental duality, which slides our perception of this ‘bad’ man to tormented and misunderstood. Given the time of M’s release, this was not a world of liberal understanding, as it was the brewing of a new war. Which brings us to the conclusion: World War II.
In 1933, The Third Reich had taken control of Germany, thus turning it into Nazi Germany. Dr Joseph Goebbels and Hitler were avid fans of cinema and saw the full power and potential of Propaganda through the art of film. Goebbels had bared witness to Hitler watching Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen, which had caused such an emotional response in the führer. Goebbels, in that moment, saw the raw power of Fritz Lang and wanted to offer Lang a position as the head of a new agency supervising motion picture productions in The Third Reich. He would ultimately become the Nazi’s führer of film. What the nazis did not take into account, however, was that Fritz Lang was Jewish—and so was his family.
Goebbels arranged a meeting with Fritz Lang at the Ministry of Propaganda, where he offered him a position as the Head of German Film. To which Lang, in the most classy, gentlemanly way possible, basically told them to “fuck off.” Fritz then emptied his bank account, took his money and passport, and started a new life in America.
This is why Fritz Lang was the first punk rock superstar of cinema. He not only made Hitler cry like a little bitch, but his unique vision and craft quite literally gave him unlimited resources in Nazi Germany, which he viewed as nothing. Nazi Gold was an instrument of thievery in his eyes. Cinema was the only truth in Lang’s heart.
The expressionist auteur made a mass-murdering fascist cry and was offered the world on a silver plate by the Nazis—only to smash it and walk off… What did Sid Vicious or Joey Ramone ever do that was that Punk Rock? Think about that.