• Scum       Alan Clarke – writer, Roy Minton (UK; 1979; 15)

    Scum       Alan Clarke writer – Roy Minton (UK; 1979; 15) Ray Winston, Mick Ford, Julian Firth, John Blundell

    viewed Star and Shadow Cinema 8th Feb 2024; ticket £7.00

    raw porridge

    Alan Clarke’s ‘Scum’ feels like the result of a close collaboration with writer Roy Minton. It’s a situational drama that was one of the last in a line of social realist plays commissioned by the BBC. These productions such as Loach’s ‘Cathy Come Home’ were produced periodically through the ‘60s and 70’s and undercut the comforting messages usually projected about British Society and its institutions. Viewers were presented different perspectives of the forces at work in our culture so that the vacuous policy rationales of the governing bureaucracies were exposed through the scarifying experiences of the people who were the objects of state intervention.

    Of course ‘Scum’ as commissioned by the BBC was banned from transmission and not aired by them until some 8 years later. As an act of defiance and protest the Clarke/ Minton team proceeded to garner finance and make a feature film with a script that was slightly different from the BBC play but encoded with the same working premise: the corruption of prison institutions where relations based on force engender not just the abuse of power but the cynical abuse of power. Interestingly the successors to the British social realist movement were in some ways satirical TV shows such as ‘Spitting Image’ in which the actions words and intentions of ruling elites were exposed for their hypocracy and seen by the audience through puppetry’s magnifying glass, these distorted images of the politicians seemed to signal the diseased nature of their souls.

    ‘Scum’ has a core singularity of logic. The script is a mathematical equation expressing the whole of the Borstal regime as the sum of its relations of violence. The disturbing intra-trainee relations of dominance as first suffered by Carlin and then correspondingly exploited by him as the new ‘Daddy’; the taxing of the small vulnerable, the vicious racism and the rape are recorded by Clarke’s unblinking camera and linked by Minton’s script to the ethos of fear and intimidation governing the behaviour of the staff towards the inmates. Each new arrival greeted with a vicious slap to the face accompanied by the warning that there is more where that came from if there is any stepping out of line. And of course the whole system of fear is underpinned by the implementation of the ‘rule book’ by the Borstal governor so that it reinforces and abets the savagery of the system by imposing arbitrary punishment for any alleged infraction. The Governor’s overarching objective is to use the objectification of force to contain the institution so that to an outside observer the prison looks like it is running along on the smooth wheels of rectified justice: those compliant with their sentences learn useful lessons; the non compliant are made to learn. All anyone learns is that in a closed system based on sadism and brutality there is no justice: only survival for the stronger, disaster for the weaker.

    Minton’s script is founded in research of Borstal experience. Some might argue that the film is to some extent a parody, meaning that it takes the extreme end of the Borstal experience spectrum as its exclusive material. But of course since the making of ‘Scum’ which coincided with the abolition of the Borstal system, more sinister and disturbing accounts have emerged about the running and management of these institutions which the more deeply implicate the staff not just in running and maintaining regimes of terror but in direct sexual exploitation of ‘the boys’. “Who’s the daddy?” The use of the inmates by the staff for their own sexual gratification was a place that even the condensation of Minton’s script didn’t visit.

    In a sense more disturbing than the depiction of violence as the medium of control was the cynicism that was the psychic handmaiden of the Borstal regime. The gap that existed between the idealised expressed order of the rules and objectives of the the regime, and the actual manner in which the place was run, was filled by cynicism.

    And like the violence the cynicism was top down filtration, the well spring being the Governor. The justification of the terrible transgressions by the staff: punishing victims, their sanctioning rape theft vicious beatings, was accompanied by claims that these were character building, chances for lessons to be learnt etc. rather than admittance that this was the system. The lead player in the gratuitous use of officialese is the helmsman, the Borstal Governor whose recourse to cynical justification for his ‘punishment’ of trainees put on report, was an exercise in plausible deniabilty and practiced political manipulation that set the example for staff and trainees alike.

    The centrality of cynicism depicted in ‘Scum’ to the psychic structure of Borstal puts the script at the forefront of exposing the political response systems as they have developed during the later years of the last century and the subsequent the arrival of social media. Of course cynicism has always been at the expressive core of political institutions and bureaucracy. It lay at the heart of the colonial mentality in particular in the 1920’s and 30’s. But it was often hidden: newspapers and other news outlets, radio and TV normally drew a veil over the underlying duplicity of statements by principal state actors. But first satirical programmes opened up this mainline artery leading to the dishonest heart of governance and today with the scepticism induced by social media dialogue, suspicion of cynicism is a rife element in political debate. A feeling reinforced by interviews with today’s politicians who on TV and radio, defending their particular policies sound ever more familiar, ever more kin to the Minton’s Governor in ‘Scum’.

    adrin neatrour











  • Poor Things   Yorgos Lanthimos (UK; 2023)

    Poor Things   Yorgos Lanthimos (UK; 2023) Emma Stone, Ramy Youssef; Willem Defoe

    viewed Tyneside Cinema 13 Jan 2024; ticket £11.75

    Duck Soup

    Poor Things   Yorgos Lanthimos (UK; 2023) Emma Stone, Ramy Youssef; Willem Defoe

    viewed Tyneside Cinema 13 Jan 2024; ticket £11.75

    Duck Soup

    In making ‘Poor Things’ Yorgos Lanthimos has directed a film that expresses a key feature of the times, the spectacle of narcissism. ‘Poor Things’ is a persuasive pervasive spectacle woven into the very stuff of contemporary experience – the self absorbing nature of today’s lifestyles, exemplified by social media in which the private transmutes into the public. Lanthimos’ film exploits the commodification of the self but has abandoned the critical edge that characterised earlier work such as the ‘The Killing of the Sacred Deer’.     

    For Lanthimos the settings of his scenarios have always played a significant and/or prominent part in the design of his movies.  In ‘The Killing of the Sacred Deer’ the spaces representing contemporary USA are signifiers of his thematic concerns. The manner in which he filmed the suburbs, the hospital, home interiors were intrinsic to his satiric theme of the intrinsic impersonality of this culture. We are shown the emptied out spaces, vacuous and devoid of meaning in which the black comedy of an ‘all American’ ritual death is played out.  The fusion of setting and theme was central to the concept underlying the ‘Sacred Deer’ script.  

    With his production of ‘The Favourite’ Lanthimos exploits relations in an historical context to play out some tropes of today’s oppositional gender politics. The drama takes place in an English Country House and its environs. But despite, or perhaps because of Lanthimos’ camera work with its long internal tracks and his use of wide angle distorting fish eyed lens, the setting never amounts to more than a backdrop. It serves simply as an authentic looking feed into the anachronistic script. The long galleries the wainscoted chambers the high ceiling salons play no part in the psychic dynamic of the film. His three principal characters are as detached from the film’s setting as a visiting tourist. The featured Country Pile has high background value, prominence but not significance.

    Like ‘The Favourite’, Lanthimos’ ‘Poor Things’ is a retro-temporal piece. It uses a vaguely depicted nineteenth century as a canvas upon which to project its female protagonist Bella’s proto-feminist career.   Unlike ‘The Favourite’ in ‘Poor Things’  Lanthimos fuses theme and sets but not in a manner in which they offset each other critically, but rather so that they work togather to uncritically support the conceits of the times. The sets are shop windows, display areas characteristic of a film that empties itself out as spectacle. As in department stores or adverts for fancy soap, the sets exist solely to promote the product on the centre stage; product which in this case is Bella. Bella – woman commodified as a feminist icon.

    In the manner of a large number of contemporary films ‘Poor Things’ scenario comprises one thing after another. The scenes follow on from each other with quick fire delivery. A product of Baxter’s experiments, Bella has been implanted with the brain of her own in utero child. As Bella matures she decides to move out of Baxter’s house (which is also his lab and surgery where he conducts Dr Moreau type experimentation – it would seem by and large with happier results) going off with libertine Duncan to various ports of call before ditching him and ending up in a Parisian brothel.   Using similar camera techniques as in ‘The Favourite’ the fish eye lens zooms and tracks, each of these locations is a showcase for advertising Bella’s development from naïve child to self loving woman. In a culture of narcissism spectacle has a particular rationale in its justification and legitimation of the individual.

    In ‘Poor Things’ narcissism and spectacle are inextricably linked as dominant forces within the contemporary matrix. Both narcissism and spectacle work to blur differentiation between the public and the private sphere. Through the projection of social media life can be lived out as a sort of spectacle where the self exists in a social matrix where things have value only in relation to the attention they attract. The price paid for the primacy of attention is the reduction of life to the simplistic criteria of one dimensionality. And Lanthimos’ characters in ‘Poor Things’ all flaunt their uni-dimensional cartoon type representations. As such we can have no investment in them other than as types, in a similar way to characters in superhero movies.

    As a quest movie scripted in the key of narcissism, ‘Poor Things’ shares some striking features with David Finch’s ‘The Killer’. Both movies feature self obsessed protagonists who canter through their respective scripts experiencing only self vindication and the validation of success: their brilliant careers. Without self doubts or serious obstacles the scripts of these respective movies celebrate an unconditional triumphalism. In ‘Poor Things’ Lanthimos’ scenario vindicates the arrogance of narcissism and and celebrates a world in which hubris has no consequences.

    adrin neatrour






  • Letter from an Unknown Woman   Max Ophuls (USA; 1948)

    Letter from an Unknown Woman   Max Ophuls (USA; 1948) Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan

    viewed 1st Jan 2024 on BBC 2

    and the dead speak to the living

    Based on a Stephan Zweig novel, Max Ophuls ‘Letter from an Unknown Woman’ is a ‘love’ film that penetrates into the core of obsessive desire. Ophuls whilst not staying true to the nature of Zweig’s uncompromising male protagonist, nevertheless delivers a movie that picks up the story’s initial proposition of fateful infatuation and follows it through to its logical conclusion: the bliss of death.

    Ophuls ‘Letter from…’ scenario formulates time for Lisa as a series of crystallised events. Most films encompassing passion or love render the experience as a series of naturalistic events, each with their own particular resonance, events that are bound within a strict passage of time. Ophuls recalibrates sequential time as emotional time, time as crystallised by the emotions. Outside the intensities of the experience of being in direct contact with Stefan the object of her worship, Lisa’s days and nights slip into the void of inexistence.

    Told by Lisa’s voice over as she reads the eponymous letter she has sent to Stefan, her whole life from girl to death bed has been lived only for the moments of her several meetings with him. Whilst with Stefan, Lisa is in ecstasy; removed from his presence, she is as one of the dead, mechanically going through the motions of being alive. The letter is her last expressive gesture, testament to the clarity of her rapture in suffering the ‘Passion of Lisa’.

    Time for Lisa has been compressed into the singularity of a vision, a vision of love becoming worship, that for her ‘splits’ time forever. Her experience is the opposite of an epiphany. Epiphany is an experience in time that changes everything so that life and perception open up new vistas taking the individual on new paths through an ever unravelling renewed world. Lisa’s moment of vision, the vision of Stefan as the ultimate object of her love/worship entraps her in a beatific quasi religious moment that never expands never develops. The vision of Stefan simply reduces her life to the infinite quest of trying to renew repeat replicate or recapture that singular moment. She is trapped in a time crystal. To some extent her life takes on a form similar to that of a heroine addict or a person who has had an intense numinous experience. What is yearned for, desired above all else is to achieve the moment once again, a repetition, to capture the same rapturous intensity of that first experience. The heroine addict seeks to repeat the glorious sensation of the first hit; the feeling of being charged with the numinous, drives a need to re-experience this elation, by prayer by flagellation to remove all obstacles imagined or real, to arrive at this goal.

    There is no logic in Lisa’s total infatuation. There are few clues as to its source. Lisa has experienced instantaneously some ego shattering truth. It’s a vision which like a cancer will grow within her and eventually overwhelm her. There is no why; there is only the spectacle of a self consumed by an internalised daemon. In another form, in another context, with another kind of vision she might have been a saint.  

    Ophuls creates for Lisa the necessary filmic vehicle for the experience of her life. ‘Letter from…’ is structured purely about her crystallised moments and realisations. Her whole life compacted into her moments, her experiences of and with Stefan. The first rapture occurs when she is a girl. Stefan, a concert pianist, moves into an apartment in the same building. Stricken by his presence and the world his presence creates, she watches him from afar, listens to him playing, secretly enters his home. Like a spy she watches secreting her passion never interacting with him except one delirious moment where she holds open the entrance door for Stefan: he oblivious she consumed.   Growing up marriage childbirth all pass by as in a grey void. Orphuls’ film expands and fills out the scenario with Lisa’s brief episodes with the object of her worship. The one night stand which makes her pregnant; her abandonment of her husband as she glimpses Stefan at the opera and makes one last effort to re-experience the rapture. And of course, the final chapter her final letter: the statement of her idealised love/worship of this indifferent being unaware of her until the letter which like cupid’s arrow pierces him.  

    So as Lisa’s life time isn’t a continuum a series of events, but rather a number of crystallised moments. Ironically in relation to Stefan whose life has been ‘one thing after another’ her letter becomes a defining event in his life. (Orphuls script deviates radically here from the Stefan Zweig story which ends on a colder note). After reading Lisa’s letter, Stefan’s life also crystallises into a life / death decision: he changes his mind about running away from the challenge of Lisa’s husband, and accepts the duel.

    Opus shooting of ‘Letter from…’ underpins the emotionally episodic nature of Lisa’s life. Lisa’s actual life is an internality, Ophuls contrasts this by filming the context of her life in Vienna as a vivid externality. The street scenes, the detailing of interiors and exteriors are caught in movement using tracks and cranes linking the   bustle and immanency of life to Lisa’s immobility. Much of the filming of Lisa is in these sort of wide shots which allow the viewer to make the linkages between Lisa and the world in which she moves. The psychological weakness in the filming comprises the over long close-ups of Lisa as she hovers close by Stefan under the spell of her own enchantment. Joan Fontaine simply runs out facial expressions for her to adopt in the presence of her ‘God’.

    The scripted voice over device serves the dramatic realisation of the story superbly well: the dead communicating to the living. It is certain that Billy Wilder will have seen Orphuls film. When ‘Letter from…’ was released Wilder was engaged in preparing the script for Sunset Boulevard and Orphals use of the voice over device may well have fed into his scripting of this film which of course begins with the dead man in the swimming pool introducing himself in voice over and taking us into the movie.

    adrin neatrour 






  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre   Tobe Hooper (USA; 1974)


    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre   Tobe Hooper (USA; 1974) Marilyn Burns

    viewed Star and Shadow Cinema Newcastle, 7 Dec 2023. Ticket £7

    training manual

    Seeing Hooper’s ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ for the second time made me think about the role played by films both in shaping the psychic atmosphere of the times and eliciting individuated psychological responses to movie imagery.

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is about ‘force.’  ‘Force’ defined by Simone Weil as the power that turns anyone who is subjected to it into ‘a thing’. Force  “…exercised to its limit turns man into a thing; in the most literal sense it makes a corpse out of him. Force has been exercised. Someone was here, the next minute there is nobody.”

    The mythologies and writings of many religions such as the Christian Book of Revelation and the Norse Ragnarok all describe in graphic detail what will happen when the world comes to an end, the end of days the time when human life is destroyed. The religio-mythical accounts all premise the aetiology of such events as within the fold of a superhuman agency. It may be that in the judgemental logic of the ‘Book of Revelation’ human sinfulness brings on God’s wrath, but it is God’s decision to visit fire and brimstone upon mankind. In other mythic variations of the destruction theme, it is the Gods or other pre-human titans that lay waste to the earth, with human extinction almost being collateral damage. The common theme is that it is the Gods who dispose.

    Cut to post 1945 – it’s man who disposes . The development of atomic and nuclear weapons has led to the exponential increase in the destructive capacity of human weaponry. Weapons of mass destruction are now widely proliferated, and if used would not only totally flatten their actual targets but through the ensuant fall out of radiation would kill most of us as well as poison a broad spectrum of life on the planet. It is no longer religio-mythic texts that feed our imaginations with literalist descriptions of apocalypse rather it is the movies filled out with their digitally generated images of devastation that connect into the synaptic pathways of the human psyche. Films such as ‘Batman, Dark Knight Rises’ and the ‘Terminator Franchise’ (in particular Terminator 2: Judgement Day) create expectations of complete annihilation. In their violent playout of opposing forces (good and evil) they have chiselled the runes of annihilation into our collective consciousness. A form of popular mass entertainment has become a significant channel for habituating if not inuring its audiences to the idea of becoming ‘things’. When interviewed for news programmes, the default response of most survivors of disaster situations is to compare their experience of devastation to something they’ve seen in the movies. They are witness to the strength of a conditioning effect working through the imagery of the movie industry.

    Looking at film’s influence in response to violence perpetrated at an individual level, Tobe Hooper’s ‘Chainsaw Massacre’ brings into clear relief the issue of the desensitisation of viewers to the use of ‘force’ in engaging in acts of graphic cruelty. ‘Texas Chainsaw’ is a film that celebrates the infliction of pain and death by the powerful upon the powerless. The percept underlying Hooper’s movie is that the purpose of individual power is to exert it pitilessly in the subjugation of body and mind of a victim, subjugation often to the point of killing them, rendering them dead things. In this respect ‘Texas Chainsaw’ is a different sort of proposition to previous films in the Horror genre such as the earlier Hammer movies or Italian produced horror films.

    The Hammer and Italian horror movies of the 1950s and ‘60s in the main had gothic story lines revolving round vampires, ghosts, demented doctors, witches etc. However gruesome the fate of the innocent victims might be, the deaths depicted in these films were mechanical in as much as the characters’ motives for killing had a scripted rationality by dint of them being vampires necrophiliacs or schizo-surgeons etc. The perpetrators of evil in these films were driven men and women. They were possessed by their particular need but took no intrinsic pleasure from what they had to do in order to satisfy it.  

    In the ‘Horror’ genre of this era (1960’s) the ‘Dread’ lay partly in the actual situation – vampires needing the blood of the living – the idea of the ‘victim’ and the manner in which the action was filmed. The thrill for the audience was usually the setting up and the consequent stalking of the unsuspecting victim. This was intensified by well established cinematic tricks – switching camera point of view and representation – and using music and sound effects to amplify tension before the victim – too late – turns screams and is summarily dispatched. A knife a blow a bite: the end’s quick. The post operative shot will often feature the prone bloody body, before the scenario moves onto its next phase. ‘Texas Chainsaw’ is different: the violence is sadistic. it is opportunist and is perpetrated outside any evident rationale. Force is used for pleasure. The murder of the first woman, Pam, introduces a cruelty that sets it apart from the aforementioned horror movies and other preceding genre productions.

    Pam is caught by the ‘bone man’ in the ‘bone house’. He lifts her up bodily off her feet and carries her over to a rail where he impales her on a butcher’s hook. These ‘S’ hooks are normally used to hang the dead animals in slaughter houses. We hear the woman’s screams of pain as the weight of her own body drives the hook deeper and deeper into her flesh delivering her to a slow agonising death. The presentation of killing by means of the torture of impalement immediately marks out Hooper’s film as entering different psychic relationship with its audience: Hooper is inviting the audience to witness force perpetrated for the enjoyment of extended physical suffering. As’boneman’ rams her down on the hook it’s like a magic trick of transformation: in the blink of an eye for the audience she ceases to be a living being she becomes ‘dead meat’.

    This trick is compounded later in the film by Sally’s ordeal. Sally is eventually captured by ‘the bonemen’. She is bound strapped down, subjected to batterings and lacerations and the terror of being a helpless victim. Hooper develops the scene to a point where sitting opposite her at the other end of the table her tormentors take a break. For a moment they draw back from her. The men watch as Sally in visceral terror screams gasps howls overtaken by the fear and horror of what’s happening. The response of the men to Sally’s pain is an increasing unalloyed amusement and pleasure. The more pain Sally shows the funnier they find it, until they’re all collapsing in uncontrollable laughter. This is an extended scene of some minutes duration; so long I started to find it unbearable as some of the audience identifying with the merciless reduction of Sally to ‘thing’ status, started to join in the laughter.

    What’s new (as far as I know to mainstream and Hollywood movies) and different in ‘Texas Chainsaw’ and what was to become a feature of subsequent ‘Slasher’ movies was the implied invitation to take vicarious open pleasure in the pain and suffering of others.  To glorify force like it’s a a magic trick, turn some one into a ‘thing’ and the audience will for the most part side with the power. The underlying rationale of Hooper’s film lies in its open celebration of cruelty as spectacle. It comes with permission to openly gaze upon the infliction of pain by the party with power upon the weak.

    It is a significant feature of Hooper’s script that the motivation of ‘the bone house men’ is undetermined. The scripts of the aforementioned Hammer and Italian films were always contained within a motivational schema that gave them both a form and a carapace of justifiable rationality. Hopper’s ‘bonemen’ lack any such clear purpose. They are isolated beings, driven by a psychopathic enjoyment of slaughter and death.   Enjoyment of killing for its own sake which is aroused whenever the opportunity arises and someone is lured into their isolated sanctum.

    The socio-cultural undertow of American psychopathy realised in ‘Texas Chainsaw’ is now celebrated on by lone gunman mass killings that characterise daily life in the USA. The intoxification of force that’s seen in the cold calculation of these mass killers is well documented: taking aim with their semiautomatic M16s (now a favourite of illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank) they coldly select their live targets and shoot them, one after another moving with calculated deliberation through the killing zone of choice. Whatever their motivation, whether it’s to play ‘God’, to wreak revenge for their real or imagined pain etc. the force is with them. They take it upon themselves to turn the living into corpes. The isolation and psychopathy at work in America probably engender a feed back loop between the type of cultural output represented by Hooper’s film and the increasing phenomena of mass murders by lone gunmen.

    Most disturbing is Hooper’s gratification in the the pain of others. The sense in which Texas Chainsaw gives license to enjoyment of torture, albeit disguising this permission in what might be innocently described as an over-the-top Horror romp. But the hook is the hook, and the unrestrained rollicking laughter of ‘bonemen’ tormenters opens up a vista of the psychic legitimation of allowable cruelty, at the level of individual psychology giving notice that it’s good fun to inflict hurt, in fact it is a prerogative and affirmative of power. To express real power you have to use force to inflict death or physical pain on the opposing body, to turn it into a thing at your disposal.

    If I had been one of the American trainers of torturers at Guantanamo or Bagram I would have had mandatory screenings of Texas Chainsaw Massacre for my trainees every night for the duration of the course as part of the de-sensitisation programme, a primer as to how to turn people into dead things.

    adrin neatrour


  • The Long Farewell   Kira Muratova (USSR; 1971) 

    The Long Farewell   Kira Muratova (USSR; 1971)   Zinaida Sharko; Oleg Vladimirsky

    viewed Star and Shadow Cinema 3 Dec 2023; ticket: £7

    to see

    Kira Muratova’s ‘The Long Farewell’ centres on a relationship that is rarely covered in the movies, namely the relationship between mother and adolescent son. Aside from the caricature relationships centred about crude representations generated by crime genre films such as Raoal Walsh’s Cagney film ‘White Heat’ and various other similarly structured scripts featuring Mothers as family crime bosses, this relationship has been almost completely outside the interests of producers and directors, most of whom have been male.

    And yet many women, for different reasons are locked into the emotional investment endemic in bringing up sons to be young men. As a woman director, Muratova has taken this cross gender / cross generation dyad as subject of ‘The Long Farewell’ and invested in a script that avoids the sensational and obvious types of filmic manipulation. Rather Muratova invites the audience to absorb the emotional orbits of both Yevgeniya and her son Sasha, employing a scenario based on perceptions rather than images. The perceptions are mediated through a series of situations: graveyard, train journeys, visits, home, work, public events. Situations in which the viewer absorbs the shifting dynamics between mother and maturing son as their relationship shifts from the stage of the comfortable dependency of childhood to a new shifting basis of uncertainty and instability.  

    Muratova’s ‘The Long Farewell’ is a neo-realist film in the tradition of directors such as De Sica and Rossellini, who likewise carved out a series of films that were less about presenting action and story line, rather more about inventing a Cinema of thought.

    Early commentators connected neo-realist movies to a concern with social content. But this linkage overdetermines the role of content in these films which were in fact structured around the intentions and concerns by De Sica et al to make another form of Cinema. A Cinema that was not locked into action images and the play out of narrative but rather to create a new kind of constructed reality that was elliptical, wavering, working in blocs with deliberately weak connections. Neo-realism ethos didn’t reproduce or represent the real, but rather aimed at the real, always ambiguous always asking its audience to decipher what was going on.  Asking the audience to engage in an act of seeing, to accept the invitation to be part of the thought processes of the film.

    Muratova’s film is about process not about outcome and the film is shot and edited in a cinematic style that enables the audience to be witness to the fluctuations of mood that play out between mother and son as the emotional balance between them undergoes a significant shift. The shooting is defined by wide shots comprising long takes that encompass optical situations that allow the viewer to see what is going on. The climactic optical situation takes place in auditorium of a theatre where Yevgena arriving late and drunk finds someone occupying her seat. Despite being given chances to settle the situation she is overwhelmed by her frustrations and fears; in this ridiculous situation she is overwhelmed by her powerlessness and she erupts in a spectacle of public fury. As her increasing anger renders her more and more out of control, it is only the intervention of Sasha that rescues her from what looks like a moment of inevitable shame and humiliation. And it is through this optical situation that we see that the fulcrum of love has come to rest at a point where now it is the son who now has responsibility to look after the mother.

    This is of course not an end point; a end realisation. We have witnessed a shift in a point of time. From the nature and structure of Muratova’s movie is clear that her script is a strip of action; the time covered in the film a poised moment in the flow of life from past to present to future. The present is amenable for us to witness but the past and the future are veiled vistas. If we come away from the film affected by what we have seen, it is not because we have been manipulated by the torque of the scenario; it is because we feel we have been in close proximity to the complexity of the human situation which we know all to well from our own lives.

    adrin neatrour


  • Apocalypse Now       Francis Ford Coppola (USA; 1979)

    Apocalypse Now       Francis Ford Coppola (USA; 1979) Martin Sheen; Marlon Brando


    viewed Star and Shadow Cinema 9 Nov 23; ticket: £7

    The spectacle of everyday America

    After reading Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ my feeling is that though there are elements of the novella incorporated into Coppola’s scenario, the script owes more to Hollywood Westerns such as Ford’s ‘The Searchers’ which has the theme of a search and find mission, plus a number of other such genre movies where a lone cowboy or cowboys track down ‘a baddie.’

    I saw this film first when it opened and it made a big impression. I was blown away by the visual impact of the set piece spectacles, a scenario exploiting the idea of America sucked into the darkest vent of hopeless destructive nihilism. On re-seeing Coppola’s movie I immediately understood the effect that ‘Apocalyse Now’s’ opening sequence had on me both in establishing the mood of the film and colouring the film’s atmospherics. The opening sequence is not so much defined by its visuals but by the sound track which emotionally overwhelms the audience: Jim Morrison lead singer of ‘The Doors’ gives a scarring performance of his song, ‘The End.’

    “This is the end….My only friend…the end…Lost in a wilderness of pain….

    And all the children are insane….Kill…kill….kill…” The lyrics, often improvised live by Morrison stretched out on acid, become a primal scream that sweeps up into itself all the dirt of a culture locked into death.

    The power of Morrison’s voice, the initial slow restrained tempo building towards chaos, the sparse instrumentation that locates close to an Indian raga, lends the sound a cosmic etherial dynamic, all combine to engender a state of mind open to the apocalyptic vision, a revelation of suburban America’s ‘End of days’.

    ‘The End’ bookends Coppola’s film, both opening and closing the movie. It is the first and the last: initially priming state of mind for what is to come; at the end signing off its audience with an interpretive confirmation of the thematic play out of what they have seen.

    After the first spectacle of Willard’s burst of self directed rage in his hotel room, the scenario charts his up-river journey to find and kill Kurtz, a special forces operative who has gone native. The trip is a series of set pieces, the filming anchored in the images of the war: the massacre of a Vietcong village from the air by attack helicopters, the obscenity of the entertainment industry flown into the war zone, the vison of war seen as a ‘Son et Lumiere’ experience under the influence of drugs. America encapsulated as – guns – sex – drugs – and rock n roll – America on an acid high fucking the world. For what?

    ‘Apocalypse Now’ at this level is silent about the: ‘For What?’. Second viewing impressed that this a film about the USA, the Vietnam war is a backdrop. The ‘For What’ invites the idea that as Jim Morrison suggests that the USA is an idea on the verge of tearing itself apart but instead in an act of psychic transference rips other countries apart.

    As he sails upstream Willard becomes obsessed with Kurtz as he reads his dossier and then writings. Willard is consumed by his throughts about Kurtz, not about the war and the types of decisions that brought both men to where they are, to Vietnam. Willard presents as an increasingly empty figure, the empty American, a sort of tourist gazing at the externalities of life but unable to see what is happening.

    Kurtz is the central figure for both Conrad and Coppola but Conrad is careful that whilst describing Kurtz’ qualities as a man, not to actually quote any of his writings. Coppola has Brando playing Kurtz, and as part of the deal Brando is allowed to write and deliver his own end monologue: ‘The Horror’. In the course of his speech Kurtz tells a story: about how a group of Vietcong hacked the arms of the little village children after they had been vacinated by the Americans. Kurtz with crystal clarity understands this moral cruelty. The Vietcong’s ability to go through with this horror, was a mark of their superiority, a statement of their moral certitude: their knowledge of the need to destroy the enemy and anything tainted with him. But Kurtz’ speech has a strange anomalous section. Kurtz continues with this claim that, “…if he (Kurtz) commanded ten divisions of such men…our troubles here would be over very quickly…”

    The issue with this statement is the phrase: ‘our troubles’. To whom does the ‘our’ refer. Presumably to ‘us Americans’. Despite, ‘the Horror; the Horror’… the horror caused by the American decision to fight the Vietnamese war, Kurtz for all his fine understanding and personal qualities simply wants the Americans to win the war. The why and to what purpose to win might serve, is left as a conceptual vacuum, a vacuum into which ‘Apocalpse Now’ is also subsumed. There is also a contradiction here in that the Vietcong could behave as they did towards these children because they totally believed in the rightiousness of thier cause, this is what motivated their resistance to the Yanks. There was no such primary belief amongst US soldiers in Vietnam. They were fighting as part of the generation who listened to Jim Morrison. They were fighting in the darkness of their own bankrupt society.

    With the fall of Saigon happening the year before shooting for ‘Apocalypse Now’ began, the USA had experienced a humiliating total defeat at all levels: political military and most pertinently psychic.  Nothing of this brutal actuality feeds into Coppola’s script, which takes place in the vacuum of the film making world, rendering the movie just another spectacular Western but without any of the moral baggage of the best of this genre.

    Conrad’s story works because Marlow comes away understanding something about where his journey has taken him, into certain realms of metaphorical darkness. By contrast, I came away from Coppola’s film with the feeling that as Willard returns downstream having killed Kurtz, that all he has understood is that to solve America’s problems,what you have to do is to kill another American.

    adrin neatrour


  • The Killer   David Fincher (USA-netflix; 2023)

    The Killer   David Fincher (USA-netflix; 2023) Michael Fassbender

    viewed Tyneside Cinema 6 Nov 2023; ticket price: £12-25

    Never give a sucker an even break.

    Fincher’s film is so derivative so formulaic it felt like it had been written by AI and I’m meaning; artificial idiot.

    For some reason which I never fathomed David Fincher’s ‘The Killer’ opens with a montage comprising a series of distorted supersaturated coloursome shots. Perhaps it was to demonstrate Fincher’s artistic sensibility, or perhaps his eponymous killer is experiencing these images whilst on drugs. The sequence finally cuts to what may be point of view shots as the killer stakes out the action around the apartment where his would be victim has an appointment with fate, that turns out as not to be shot in the head by the killer. After this opening the film resolves into a replay of Zimmerman’s ‘Day of the Jackal’ cross braced with revenge cycle post coitum charade which comprises a series of the usual conventional tropes, spectacles of death foretold, carried out with predictable psychopathic efficiency and nastiness. Presumably in the hope of getting the boys in the seats shouting “Daddy!”


    Because this is a reprise of ‘Jackal’ it is the details that are of prime importance to the scenario. A large portion of the film is surrendered to recording the meticulous planning apparently necessary to the art of killing, the minutiae of the business of being an assassin both as a hired gun and for the second part of the movie on his own account.  As we have seen it all before, the lock ups, the appropriation of everyday objects for purposes other than those for which they were made. This is of course mechanical ‘mindless’ stuff, allowing the script to default to a detached amoralism. It has the bonus of being both undemanding and of course and easy and cheap to shoot. It’s main purpose seems to be to bulk out the film so that its can spread over 2 hours of a Netflix schedule. Because of course what they are really selling is: wallpaper time.

    The script is dominated by the killer’s voice over. This is a voice over of voice overs. In the cinema it boomed through the surround sound speakers. It was the voice of moral certitude, not be questioned. It reminded me of the voice of God in Cecil B DeMille’s ‘The Ten Commandments’. Issuing from a burning bush on Mt Sinai, God calls out to Moses the commandments that are to be given to the Children of Israel.

    Even so that ‘the killer’ like Moses has rules, albeit rules to advance turpitude not salvation.

    I lost count of the number of times Fincher’s scenario repeated the peroration of these five rules. It was if their banality was such that they could only achieve force of purpose and or acceptance through the device of re-iteration. The repetition serves a number of uses. It works as a sort of mantra.  It’s a quasi hypnotic device dulling the mind of the viewer working against any possible realisation of the emptyness of the killer’s slogans: an intellectual and moral vacuity. Of course Orwell in 1984 understood that the endless repetition of banal propositions (such as employed by Hitler and Stalin) force feeds the unfortunate listeners into an accepting and quiescent consciousness. These rules with their admonitions about empathy and improvisation are coupled up in the script with the generalised philosophical pap that Hollywood likes mouthed by its leading men.   Long done are the days when it was left to comedians such a W C Fields to celebrate street wiseacring with his: Never give a sucker an even break. A dictum in relation to its audiences Hollywood long ago took to its heart.

    “The Killer’ increasingly looks like the future of the film industry. The death of cinema and the arrival of home entertainment. There is a drip feed of second rate and/or derivative productions feeding through the cinemas en route to the streaming channels from where the MONEY originates and where they belong. Thius of course exploits the Cinema is as a beauty parade for promoting any film on its way to the plus one of the usual suspects among the cabal of reviewers can normally be relied upon to describe any given movie as: “Best of the year!”

    adrin neatrour






  • The Exorcist   William Friedkin (1973;USA;)

    The Exorcist   William Friedkin (1973;USA;) Ellen Bustyn, Linda Blair, Jason Miller, Max von Sydow

    viewed Star and Shadow Cinema Newcastle; 31 Oct 2023; ticket: £7


    evil is as evil does

    Viewing Friedkin’s ‘The Exorcist’ I felt it had similarities with contemporary conspiracy theories, most pertinently QAnon (which started life as the claim that USA is run by a cabal of paedophiles and satanists). Once you buy into QAnon any and every event can be interpreted so as to conform and elaborate the thesis. Likewise with ‘The Exorcist’ once you buy into the core idea of ‘demonic possession’ each development and elaboration of the special effects in the scenario pulls the viewer deeper into the film’s belief matrix. Contrariwise as with QAnon so with ‘The Exorcist’ if the foundational proposition fails to convince, then the whole belief artifice collapses like house of cards, and the proceedings just seem monstrously silly.

    Taking a broad view of horror/supernatural movies the genre seems to broadly swing between two different kinds of settings: those which locate the story line in contemporary normalised settings, usually urban; and those whose settings (such as outer space or remote places) are grounded in isolated psychic domains primed to induce in the characters extreme emotive states, most usually fear/terror, provoked by unknown forces. There is not an absolute distinction between these types and both use standard trick camera and sound manipulations to try to shake up the audience. But whereas scenarios based on worlds enveloped in ever intensifying psychic events can play out their plot lines either straight or with latent humour, scripts wanting to assimilate the paranormal or fantastical into the everyday, have to toe the line with the po-faced players instructed to react to the overburgeoning narrative as if for real.

    Playing it real means that the script is grounded in a sort of tokenism of the ordinary: people go to work, indulge in leisure activities, chat and live in regular abodes. The task is then to insinuate into the vistas of the ordinary the extraordinary. Directors such as Polanski in both ‘Repulsion’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ have produced films that massage conviction by cueing the audience with ambivalent rather then extravagant visual and audio anomalies; further many of the critical sequences in Polanski’s films (ie the shots disturbing the flow of the everyday) are shot from Point of View of the protagonist.   This again invokes in the audience an indeterminacy as to whether what has happened is actual or imagined. The entanglement of certainties and uncertainties is exploited by Polanski to build up the tensions in his scripts which are all the more paroxysmal in their resolution.

    In contrast, Friedkin’s movie, is characterised by literalism. ‘The Exorcist’ is dominated by its special effects, rendering it as a series of increasingly histrionic spectacles that peak in the extravaganza of the final confrontation: Regan/the evil one levitating from the bed, with two grown men waving crucifixes and commanding the devil to depart. Films structured about spectacle are usually trapped in a crescendo of effects where the logic is that each effect has to top out the preceding one. Meanwhile ‘The Exorcist’ script links each ‘devil effect sequence’ with a sort of arch science versus superstition dialogue in which ‘superstition’ finally wins over Father Karras, who plays the part of the reluctant hero.

    ‘The Exorcist’ was a huge box office success. Friedkin’s assemblage of special effects put together in 1973 was an effective audience pleaser. However after the digital FX developments of the last 20 years, they don’t pass muster in relation to the test of the passage of time. Friedkin’s effects overall look clumsy, the models masks and caked make up obviously faked. For the film to work today as it did on release today’s viewer has to buy even more heavily than the original audience, into the film’s belief matrix, to believe in magic and that metaphysical tech works.

    We live in a socio-cultural carapace within which there is no magic. ‘The Exorcist’ answers to the wish fulfilment that a domain that exists outside the rigours of science might also provide an effective means to remedy our troubles. Friedkin’s movie feeds a compelling fantasy that there might be a magico-religious cure for evil or a cure for cancer. Cures such that ritualised prayers, crucifixes, holding crystals or the repetition of liturgical mumbo-jumbo, if used properly might be the solution to the ills of our world. In a world troubled by evil – the Nazi death camps, Stalin’s gulags – and of course the Vietnam war with its mass causalities – there was and still is a yearning in many people that there might be a fix for all these troubles.   The issue that is evaded as per Vietnam Iraq Syria etc is that the evils are structured into the fabrics of society, rather than located within the individual.

    adrin neatrour


  • The Old Oak   Ken Loach; script Paul Laverty

    The Old Oak   Ken Loach; script Paul Laverty (UK; 2023) Dave Turner, Ebla Mari

    viewed Tyneside Cinema 2nd Oct 2023; ticket £11.75

    watch the birdie

    Set in a small ex-mining town in North East England Loach and Laverty’s film begins with the idea of unseen forces. In the opening sequence of ‘The Old Oak’ we see a workman removing the ‘For Sale’ signs hanging over a couple of properties in a run down terrace. Some of the residents question the workman. From his replies they understand what’s going on. People who already have had their town stripped of its industry and employment are now experiencing the final nail in their coffin as they witness property, houses in their own streets bought up by anonymous foreign investors and reduced to junk value. Unseen forces ruthlessly extracting the last remnants of value out of a community that has been left to rot down.

    Ken Loach/Laverty films are always vehicles for their beliefs about social justice. But their films are all the better when their beliefs are underpinned and served by ideas derived from the nature of the actual forces enfolded into the machinations of contemporary life. My feeling is that they only rarely achieve this synthesis leaving many of their films as simplistic playouts of moral social themes that unravel as expressions of sentimentality embued with nostalgia for past certainties.

    One recent noticeable product of this partnership was: ‘Sorry we missed you…’ which probed the situation of a low income family in which both parents were employed in high pressure service industries: Rickie working as a contracted out zero hours delivery driver, and his wife, Abbie, as a peripatetic care worker. The film as it develops is characterised by the malevolent influences of omnipresent but distanced agents: the unseen managers with demands completely removed from the reality of the work; the mobile phones which jingle and jangle their nerves, controlling the pace of the day and making ever increasing demands on their capabilities; and of course the unseen psychic force that is ever present in their life: fear. Fear that the financial house of cards on which their family’s viability is based might at any time collapse. ‘Sorry we missed you’ works because of the tension between its protagonists and the unseen.

    After its opening sequence, ‘The Old Oak’ in contrast to ‘Sorry I missed you…’ moves into the mode of presence, that is to say ‘seen’ oppositons glazed with concomitant sentimentality.

    The unannounced arrival in the town of a group of Syrian refugees who have been allocated housing in the depopulated terraces of the town is the catalyst provoking division in the community. The latter were of course not consulted, never informed, but had to deal pre-emptorily with the situation of in-comers whose sudden appearance is yet another confirmation of their powerlessness and emasculation. The Syrians are another reason for the anger and resentment felt by some of the inhabitants, which they direct not at the hidden agents of the decision, but at the pawns in the game, the refugees.

    The plotting of Loach’s film focuses on the development of both: the relationship between TJ, a local man, a ‘good man’ the publican of The Old Oak, and Yara, the young woman Syrian incomer; and the charting of the conflict between the pro and anti-refugee factions in the town.   These script lines are brought together with TJ’s decision to develop the pub as an inclusive social centre for newcomers and original inhabitants. Both these strands of the script are characterised by a certain mechanicality, straight line scripting and a reluctance to develop significant events inserted into the film’s scenario.

    The oppositional elements between those supportive of the refugees and those resentful of them are characterised by presence. We see the two sides of the town that are in opposition. But the script fails to deliver the tensions of presence, rather it delivers moments of confrontation, but doesn’t even always develop these moments with any weight. For instance inserted into the scenario is a nasty vicious assault on a Syrian schoolboy. But the attack on the young boy, graphically shown, is not developed by the script: its documented but then glossed over, by-passed, finally forgotten, slipping out of the film’s arc of consciousness. The feeling is that Loach/Laverty were reluctant to examine the type of specific physical jeopody to which refugees can be exposed, in particular if they are young. For the most part the oppositional scenes between TJ and the regulars resolve in the script as harangues shouting matches that blow themselves out. There is of course the act of sabotage by the resentful locals but even this seems to beg the question as to why the grudge that triggered the act had not had its place in the scripted clashes between TJ and the ‘regulars.’

    Yara rather than developing as a medium for introducing unseen elements into scenario is made into an instrument of sentimentality, a touchstone for nostalgia, rather than an individual in her own right. She’s ultimately a Disneyfied character, a sort of fairy godmother. Like most Disney creations Yara feels de-contextualised, as Laverty’s script has taken taken most of the Syrian out of her, the which vacuum is not remedied by the constant references to her father’s plight. Yara registers as a deus ex-machina, sprinkling fairy dust over TJ’s pub transforming it from a static pumpkin into a moving community carriage. It’s fairy tale posing as faux social realism a feeling compounded by the penultimate scene where on news of Yara’s father’s death the whole town graduates towards her house to pay their respects. Again it reminded me of those Disney films in which when one of the central animal characters dies, all the creatures of the forest foregather to mourn.

    The admix of unashamed filmic sentimentality nostalgia and social concern is the core driving vision of Loach and Laverty’s work. But whether these two strands can coalesce effectively or whether they simply cancel each other out leaving the scripts as dull husks, is a moot question.

    adrin neatrour







  • M   Fritz Lang

    M   Fritz Lang (Ger 1931 script Thea von Harbou) Peter Lorre; Otto Wernicke

    Viewed Star and Shadow Cinema 1st Oct 2023; ticket: £7.

    Retrocrit: from procedure to process

    Although M is described as a film about the serial killer of little girls, Lang’s movie comes across as something more than this. German playwrights Brecht and Wedekind had already established murder as a type of ‘idea’, murder as a relevant motif for probing the underbelly of society’s moral structure. The abandoned the mutant the criminals and the insane, collectively could be seen as a crazed mirror through which the distorted social and moral values of industrial capitalism could the better be discerned.  

    Outcastes were twisted parodies of the institutions that feared and despised them, and from which they were banned. The slaughter of the innocent little girls is never represented as anything other than horrific but is never exploited for melodrama charge. Lang’s bold stripped filmic statements need no emotional intensifiers. Lang creates precursive images of violent death: the shadows, shadow play, the child’s balloon caught in telephone wires; Hans (Lorre as M) walking calmly by with his little victim Elsie. Shots that cut to the quick of murders that are never seen because Lang and von Harbou have woven the horror of the act on the ordinary loom of life: the everyday bustle, the daily round of chores the city’s shops and pavements.

    M’s scenario is socially contextualised. Just as the English crime thriller often had a generic upper class setting, Lang and von Harbou’s movie is set within the world of ordinary working class people. The opening shot comprising a long crane of the tenement courtyard with children playing a song game whose words call up the child murderer, introduces a place where children occupy a different world from adults, chaperoned and vulnerable. It’s a culture of hard knocks where children are left to fend for themselves – a recognisable feature of all European countries at this time. The victims are working class, as is Hans who preys on them. Hans understands the weaknesses to which they are exposed and how easily they are lured, The formal juxtaposed linkages between the shots that express class experience, and the actions of the murderer suggest a Brechtian ethos working and guiding M which shapes and carries Lang’s film foreword to its next stage of development.


    The usurpation of power by the underworld. The victory of the gangsters.


    As the procedure of the police investigation stalls and their activity interferes with criminal enterprise, the gangsters take on the task of tracking down M. When M was being made in 1930 Germany was experiencing the huge surge in Nazi popularity culminating in their triumph in the 1930 elections. The characteristic features of their irresistible rise were violent mob anti Semitism and the Nazi pack organisation.   The Nazis understood how to exploit the fears of the ‘little people’ unradicalised working class men and woman. And as a parallel psychic track, M’s script might be read as Lang and von Harbou’s analogy of the rise of Hitler, the unleashing of class anger against a specific loathed object. The gangsters and crooks take over.   Riding on the back of the innocence and fear of the working class, Hitler’s gang organise and justify taking power and justice into their own hands. Of course I have no idea if this was in the mind of the script writers, but the material was there in Berlin all around them.

    The key moment in this analogous parallelism is the chalk branding of Hans with the M sign on the back of his coat, so that he will be recognised as the Murderer. The crude M eerily pre-empts the Star of David and Juden badge that a few years later the Nazi’s obliged all Jews to wear. So that they would bare witness on their bodies the sign of their stigma. This moment of the marking of M is a stunning coup de film that precisely points to the dialectic that works through the film. From this moment the film’s logic is turned upside down and it is this anti-theatrical logic which drives the final sections of the scenario.

    In the first section of the film, Hans is perpetrator and hunter. From the moment of his branding, everything changes, he becomes victim and hunted. It is a measure of Lang’s insight as a director that he understood so clearly how to use the resources of film to create a pivotal moment from which we start to see everything differently, to invoke a different order of understanding. Lang and von Harbou have already shown how society has begun break down panicked by the hunt for the child sex killer, who could be anybody. But it is in the mock court scene where Hans is tried by the gangsters that the reality of mob rule is played out.

    Legal institutions have developed over centuries to protect everyone and to ensure that all are treated equally. The accused have to be tried by due process which includes evaluation of fitness to plead. The mob sweeps this all away. Whatever you are Jew or Child Killer you have only the right to be sentenced to death for what you are. There is a moment of pure Brechtian theatre as Lang’s camera pans from the serried rows of gangsters baying for Hans blood to Hans himself, alone cowered against a wooden partition. But who will speak for me, Hans asks? The camera pans upwards now and reveals behind him, on a raised level, one of the gangsters . He leans towards Hans and says: that’s my job. In this shot immediate physical threat is resolved with high farce, violence contrasts with an absurdist philosophical detachment.   Extraordinary! Pure Brecht.

    The criminal attorney conducts himself with composure and makes an eloquent defence of Hans. He shows the mob that terrible though Hans may be, the man is simply not responsible for his actions. Hans cannot be guilty of murder. Of course this plea will not make the slightest difference to the rabble who want blood. The interaction, the intercutting between the calm figure for the defence and the ferocity of the mob, heightens the viewers understanding of the issues in play; we understand at last that a case can be made that Hans is not responsible for his actions. However much his acts have disturbed and horrified us, we cannot easily find him guilty of murder. And surely the screams by mobs of Nazis and proto Nazis calling for the death of Jews a few years later will have stuck in the mind of some who saw M in 1931.  

    And finally Lang’s final resolution: his shot of the High Court where we can only presume that before which Hans has been tried and found guilty of the murders. At first the frame contains only the symbolic elements of the Court: the three monumental judgement seats situate on a raised dais. Breaking the tension of the frame, three judges enter; they take their seats and then each taking a black cap, places it their head. The shot cuts to black and the end of the film very quickly, allowing just enough time to see and take in the action. Lang and von Harbou are surely suggesting that gang law will soon become incorporated into state law.

    In this Brechtian parable we see the dialectic forces at work shaping the film and informing our understanding of what is happening. We are lead first to be overwhelmed by antagonism and fear of Hans; but these feelings are at least challenged by the change in the script’s perspective that Hans is himself a victim and needs protection from the judgement of the mob, the vectors of hate and revenge, who exploit him for their own purposes.

    Lang also sets a filmic dialectic to work in M. The interplayed tension between image and sound is a characteristic of M as film experience, But for a number of sequences Lang uses no sound, or at least only the most sparing of sound effects. Most of the film is played out with sound where the fury of dialogue works to lead and define the images. But a number of sequences Lang plays MOS, mit aus sound: mute. It is an effective device.  

    When Lang like some nineteenth century magician removes the sound (like the rabbit disappeared from the hat you wonder where it has gone) it is as if a hole has opened up in reality.   The viewer is caste down into this hole as if experiencing a dream. As if Lang is saying at one level, all this life is a dream….but dream as it may be, we can still make sense of it. Lang sets us adrift in an underworld where film and dream coalesce and into these silent images we pour ourselves. I am reminded of the mute newsreels we shall see of the second world war. So in silence we watch: the panic of the crowd, the anger of the gangsters, the animal fear of Hans, the police hunt, the silence as Elsie walks away with Hans.   Silence frames these sequences. Silence frames us as we without voice cannot speak, silence frames life and our powerlessness to act to save what needs to be saved. Many things we watch in and with silence, in particular evil.

    With his use of the silent moments Lang confirms his status not just as both a evoker of dreams but also as filmmaker who is a moralist, or perhaps an amoralist.

    Adrin Neatrour


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