Fritz Lang was one of the best known émigrés from Germany’s school of Expressionism, being dubbed the “Master of Darkness” by the British Film Institute. Lang began early on as a screen-writer, but quickly started to work as a director for the German film studio Ufa, and later Nero-Film, just as the Expressionist movement was building. In 1920, Lang met his future wife, the writer and actress Thea von Harbou. She and Lang co-wrote all of his movies from 1921 through 1933, including Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922), which ran for over four hours in two parts, the five-hour fantasy epic Die Nibelugen (1924), and the his famous science fiction film Metropolis (1927), which became one of the most expensive and influential films of the silent era. His first sound picture M (1931) which many scholar’s believe to be Lang’s masterpiece, tells the story of a child murderer in Berlin. During this period the Nazi Party were on their march Germany, and although the Nazi Party were not yet in full control, Lang’s own wife would eventually become a member. At the end of 1932, Lang started filming The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933).The film was deemed to be anti-Nazi as Lang had put phrases used by the Nazis into the mouth of the villain, a character who brainwashes and hypnotizes his victims. By March 30, the Nazi regime banned The Testament of Dr. Mabuse as an incitement to public disorder, ordering Lang to make significant changes to the film. When Adolf Hitler acquired full power, Joseph Goebbels became minister of the Ministry of Propaganda and offered Lang complete control over the nation’s film industry if he would come on board with the Nazis. According to Lang, Goebbels called Lang to his offices to inform him that The Testament of Dr Mabuse was being banned but that he was nevertheless so impressed by Lang’s abilities as a filmmaker (especially Metropolis), he was offering Lang a position as the head of German film studio UFA. Lang had stated that it was during this meeting that he had decided to leave for Paris – but that the banks had closed by the time the meeting was over, so Fritz Lang instead fled on a midnight train to America. Lang left Germany in 1934 and moved to Paris after his marriage to Thea von Harbou, who stayed behind, ended in 1933. When arriving in Hollywood, Lang signed first with MGM Studios and directed several B pictures like Fury (1936), Scarlett Street (1945) and the Big Heat (1953), all gritty amoral stories which established recurring themes of psychological conflict, paranoia and mob mentality. Lang’s American films were often compared unfavorably to his earlier German works by contemporary critics, but the restrained Expressionism of these films is now seen as integral to the emergence and evolution of the characteristics later attributed to American film noir.
Legendary director Fritz Lang took a gamble when making M, which tells the story of a child murderer in Berlin, as the film has been credited with forming two different genres: the serial killer movie and the police procedural. Lang’s earlier silent films including Metropolis were all worldwide successes, and by the year 1931, the Nazi […]
Fritz Lang’s 1927 expressionist science-fiction epic Metropolis was one of the most expensive and influential films of the silent era. Throughout the decades Metropolis as been regarded as the quintessential science-fiction film, and was the first feature length science-fiction film that pioneered the genre, with George Melies, A Trip to the Moon technically being the first. Made in Germany, within […]