Insinuation and off-screen danger is a film’s biggest asset. Sure, filmmakers can throw grotesque acts of violence on to the screen and let the splatter upheave a filmgoer’s stomach, but when a film forces the viewer to formulate terror within the frame, then imagination runs amok in heinous ways. Legendary filmmaker Fritz Lang understood this notion all too well in his 1931 thriller, M, a film that depicts the murder spree of a child killer. In place of graphically turgid murders are cold, vacant images that drive the viewer to comprehend how the death of a child came to fruition. This month’s shot is one of the calculated images Lang plants in the film to stir disgust from the viewer. The balloon is a fun token received by a young girl in the film’s opening segment. The only problem is that the balloon is given to her by a man, only identified by a shadow and a whistled tune, who preys on the innocent. Shortly after this encounter, Lang delivers a quick shot of the girl’s balloon caught in the grip of a power line. A symbol of youth struggles to escape an unexpected trap. From this image alone, a sickening truth rots the gut: evil spared the Earth of another child. Much like a balloon being intercepted before it can reach the clouds, an innocent child will never see the heights her life could reach.
Cinematographer: Fritz Arno Wagner
Director: Fritz Lang