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Narrative and Framing in the “M” Film by Fritz Lang Essay (Movie Review)


A film is a visual medium that attempts to portray thoughts of characters not explicitly expressed. Recognizing themes of moral crisis, criminal activities, and revenge, the director, brings life into the film, M. This thriller is based on the social and metaphysical fiction genre that captures the life of a serial killer, an outlaw, the law enforcement society, and concerned parents who are losing their children in unknown circumstances. This analytical treatise attempts to explicitly review the elements of plot, cinematic invisibility, narrative, sound-track, framing, and scene selection in the film, M, directed by Fritz Lang.

The Plot

The plot of the film is set in Berlin and portrays a mysterious serial killer called Beckert, who preys on school children. The first known victim is Elsie Beckmann, who does not reach home after school. The serial killer tricks her into following him and then kills her. In one of his paranoia episodes, the serial killer sends a compilation of his crimes to the law enforcement authority through a local newspaper.

This gives the police community an opportunity to use the fingerprint and handwriting technologies to trace him. The manhunt shakes the underworld of outlaws who feel threatened by the heat placed on them by the law enforcement authority. To protect their business, the lords of the underworld recruit blind beggars who managed to reveal the killer’s identity and alerted the criminal gang. The serial killer is captured by the criminal gang, and by a twist of fate, he ends up in the custody of the law enforcement authority.

Themes and Imagery

Lang has created an interesting fiction premise that takes the route of a thought-provoking path of action and chase scenes. Reflectively, this creates a feeling of an imaginative casting. Factually, the storyline is far more fascinating than the film. Lang even goes ahead to include slow-motion pictures, yet the film is a high-speed genre. This adversely distracts the flow from its original, interesting, and provocative aspects (Turan, 2013).

The theme of violence is fully exploited. However, the thriller misses the truly poetic orchestrations of actions and heroic displays of bravado, especially on the aspect of flow. The film has an intriguing premise on the theme of violence: characters in the film are criminals, concerned parents, disappearing children, and the law enforcement authority baying for the blood of a serial killer. The anomy in the storyline seems to suggest a weak social system and paranoia.

For instance, the serial killer had found himself in the company of a chaotic criminal gang before the police could catch him. Across the film, series of tragic events unfold and climax with five bench trial of the serial killer. In the thriller, however, Lang’s premise is really exploited and used as the framework for limp action set-pieces (McLanahan, 2013). Unfortunately, this approach seems unable to convey the poetry and philosophical inclinations of the storyline of the film, such as underlying fear and destabilizations of the imaginative explorations.

The main character looks entirely out of place; the actor doesn’t seem to understand his character’s haunting position: a man who practically is forced to “talk” to his own disassociated “self” amidst deaths of little children and chaos in the Berlin society. The main character looks moderately concerned and a bit confused with the motive driving him to kill many children.

Composition and Soundtracks

Since the invention of motion pictures, music has been a vital tool as a communication medium in films. As a matter of fact, the use of music resonates on the facets of the plot and its significance in defining and modeling the synopsis via creation of desired effects. Often, music takes the form of filmic metaphor, that is, the message being communicated (McLanahan, 2013). The background sound track in the film creates ambience in the plot and ensures continuality as integrated by emotions. In the process, emotional act is invoked from different characterized traits played by each character in the cast.

The emotional play is synchronized with music to make the audience appreciate and feel the same way as expected by the film maker. From the type of music being played, the audience can predict the turn of events in the next scene; whether bad or good (Turan, 2013). Besides, this music evokes sensation of horror of the synopsis, especially in the scenes where a child is captured and when the criminals are probing the serial killer. Without music, this narrative, presented in motion pictures, would have minimal impacts on the audience as compared to the same with a variety of musical soundtracks.

The sound-tracks in the film enable the audience to identify themselves with the dilemma of the parents, criminal gang, serial killer, and the law enforcement authority and relate to their roles in the film. These compositions ease the mood in the movie as sadness intensifies. Therefore, the choice of instrument used and monotony of the soundtracks in the film, M, has created the unique coded sounds for recognizable access on the part of the audience. Though constantly and consistently playing in the background, the soundtracks are not heard consciously. Rather, the tracks function actively in the subconscious mind as they lead the audience to the preceding scene (Costantini, 2006). Besides, tonal balancing makes this music a subordinate to visuals and dialogue, though it is part of the narrative vehicle.

Technical Elements

Visual communication relies on both the eyes that see the images and the brain that processes and makes sense of the information received. An active mind therefore, is capable of remembering visual images; consequently having both text and images enables one to analyze the pictures. The frame in the storyline of this motion picture deals with factors that language is clearly ill equipped to handle. Precisely, the visually salient elements of the subject and of its spatial have an interesting fusion (Kauffman, 2012).

In the third scene, the frame picture of the serial killer and a young innocent girl invokes meaning by adding information to the words presented (Costantini, 2006). For example, the story teaches us about the importance of watching our children and teaching them not to talk to strangers, least they become victims of a serial killer.

At the onset of the film, viewers are introduced to rot in the society and how a serial killer is easily preying on his little victims. Its visual representational meaning conveys the relationship between the killer and the depicted structuring of subsequent scenes (Jensen, 1969). The relationship between visual and audio experiences in this film is realized by elements defined as vectors or processes which correspond to a group of action in the surprise of fear (Costantini, 2006). This frame of the film creates conceptual process that is visually characterized by the absence of vector. In the film, conceptual processes occur when the serial killer, fearful children, outlaws, and the law enforcement society interact.

Cinematic Perspectives

Contact is one of the most important visual systems as it enables the viewer to distinguish between images that depict different objects and scenes, such as a person or animal. Contact visualization has been achieved in the film by the use of dark background that introduces the characters at the beginning of the film (Garnham, 1968). However, from the picture motions, the main character is very cautious in thought and action pattern. In the film, M, the above cinematic invisibility forms indicate the themes of vulnerability, fear of the unknown, and class stratification surrounding this society following the disappearance of many children.


Creation of scenes with consistent assumptions and symbolic insinuation adds comprehensiveness to film perception by the audience. The film shows how an individual’s sense of identity is vulnerable to manipulation by others within the same cluster of thoughts. This is seen in the relationship between the serial killer and the victims, the criminal gang and the captured killer, the outlaws and the law enforcement authority, and the policemen and the serial killer. Lang relied heavily in a balance of irony, realism, and parody in the film, M, to present a distinct literary style in depicting the society as being subjected to unending tension by the acts of the serial killer, policing authority, and the lords of the underworld.


Costantini, G. (2006). . Web.

Garnham, N. (1968). M: A film by Fritz Lang. New York, NY: Simon and Schulster.

Jensen, P. (1969). The cinema of Fritz Lang. New York, NY: A. S. Barnes & Co.

Kauffman, S. (2012). ““. The criterion collection. Web.

McLanahan, E. (2013). Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ is a great entertainment, but it’s also a genre mashup. Web.

Turan, K. (2013). . Web.

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IvyPanda. "Narrative and Framing in the "M" Film by Fritz Lang." September 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/narrative-and-framing-in-the-m-film-by-fritz-lang/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Narrative and Framing in the "M" Film by Fritz Lang." September 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/narrative-and-framing-in-the-m-film-by-fritz-lang/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Narrative and Framing in the "M" Film by Fritz Lang'. 9 September.

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