M directed by Fritz Lang is the top listed criminal genre movie of all time history. The movie revolves around “the serial murderer” who fears the city of Berlin in 1930s. Movie is mainly plotted with the chase and justification of the murderer by two opposite parties, the police and the criminals. However, this movie opens with the sequence not including the two main chaser of the murderer but how one of the case of murder happens to the ordinary family living in Berlin.
Narrative structure of the first ten minutes of the film is well constructed. Story revolves around the ordinary life of Elise the girl and her mother. Though the plot is about an event of Elise meeting the murderer and getting killed by him at the end. Plot takes it’s turning point when Elise meets the murderer which is someone who breaks into her world. From then, she follows the unusual life of hers or any other children living in Berlin,for example somebody buying her a balloon without any special occasion . Not only Elise but the mother’s life routine been changed by the cause of Elise’s late return. She starts paying attention to the clock and every noise she hears from the corridor. The sequence reach it’s climax when the mother started worrying about Elise’s late return and start shouting her name. The event of this plot takes only about half a day in theatrical duration of ten minutes. It has a simultaneity plot time between the time of Elsie’s and the mother’s starting from Elsie’s school dismissal. This creates the chronological progression of the film smoothly as the audience can follow the two events happening at same time.
Mise-en-scene of this sequence is well thought out to narrate the life of people in Berlin. Sequence was set in the apartment and the path which Elsie takes to return to her home. These settings are nothing apart from the set where the people in Berlin lives. Also, the movie is set in the day time when the family do their ordinary daily routines : children going to school and mothers doing house work. The mise-en-scene is fairly realistic and the lighting is natural. However it is expressionistic when Elsie meets the murderer. It shows the big poster looking for the murderer with unusual price of rewards and Elsie’s ball bouncing to the wall. And the shadow of a man suddenly comes in and asks for Elsie’s accompany. This mise-en-scene is fairly simple with only three elements in it. The poster which is stating the story of the murderer , the ball representing a child and the shadow of a man who represents some strange mysterious figure. The lighting of the scene is fairly strong with the murderer’s shadow appearing distinguishably on the wall. Acting of the actors are not melodramatic nor emotional but realistic and natural.
Cinematography of the movie is well planned to narrate the story. The establishing shot of the movie is Elsie and the children playing a game from the high angle shot. This can be seen as the Elsie’s mother looking down on Elsie as the following up scene is the mother at the balcony scolding her. This let the audience to be part of the characters of the film and welcome them to the world which the film created in. Though other scenes are mostly the medium shots or long shots following the daily routine of Elsie and the mother and put the audience as the “voyeur” who observe their life. For example when mother is preparing the dinner for her family, the shot is stabled. However when the mother started worrying about Elsie’s late return to home, the cinematography change it’s style again by point of view shots of the mother of looking down at stairs, clock,plates on the table and the laundry room which are expressionistic with showing the object which represent the Elsie’s family life in subjective form.
Editing of the film is simple but impressive of how their editing narrate the change of life of Elsie and her mother’s with the enter of the murderer. This presented well when the movie uses “cut away” to show both Elsie’s and mother’s situation. When the school bell rang it start showing Elsie start walking home with the bouncing ball and soon cut away to the mother doing her house work and preparing for her daughter’s return. This cut away comes to brilliance from when Elsie met the murderer. As the movie cuts away between Elsie’s unusual and path to the tragedy and mother’s ordinary usual life routine it narrates adeptly of how the ordinary life of the Elsie’s family to break down with the cause of her meeting with the murderer.
Sound is important aspect of the film and it is used carefully in the sequence as well. Throughout the whole movie, the whistle by the murderer be the motif and the hint to find him. Also, there are hardly any music on the background but movie is near silent with only the sound people make are included, for example the car horn, school bell and most importantly the noise of children coming up the stairs.This crafts the movie realistic. However, sounds play the important role to create the climax of the sequence. In the scene where mother started shouting Elsie’s name, the sound of her voice can be heard when the camera is showing the places of where their life mostly revolves around: staircase, laundry place and the well set dining table. But when the camera cut to the scene at the filed where the ball of Elsie rolls and the balloon stuck in the electric light pole, there are complete silence in the film. This narrates greatly of where Elsie was which is the place where her mother’s voice can not reach. Also, the at the end of the whole film the mothers moans about somebody must be looking after the children, with the complete silence in the two scenes of field and the balloon shows that no one was around and watching the Elsie to be murdered.
Overall, the opening sequence of M is crafted well in terms of narrative structure, mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing and the sound to create the story of the collapse of daily life of a girl and her mother by the meeting of the murderer.