M (1931), Fritz Lang

As disturbing as it is thrilling, Fritz Lang’s 1931 M – with its tale of a child murderer causing panic in Germany – sets some groundbreaking rules for serial killer movies to come and asks difficult questions about society’s responsibility towards mentally unstable individuals.

m-2Fritz Lang’s 1931 masterpiece M not only subverts every storytelling rule that there is, but most importantly, it documents a crucial era in German history. In its prescience, the film depicts a society at war with itself, few years before it engaged in real battle with its neighbouring, powerful nations. The police state seems already in full force, even before the Nazis took control of the country and made sure every citizen spied on each other. By antagonizing such a society with a truly despicable – albeit a pitiable one – individual, the film plays a magnificent and ambiguous game. Continue reading

Gone with the Wind (1939), Victor Fleming

Thematically controversial and visually arresting, Victor Fleming’s 1939 Gone with the Wind, isn’t exactly the most accurate of motion pictures, but the scope of its storytelling, and the psychological insights it displays about a flawed but compelling heroine, are admirable indeed.

gone-with-the-wind-2How does one defend a 75-year-old movie that sugarcoats aspects of a nasty legacy in American history? Obviously, one doesn’t – one can’t! In fact, the film does not need defending – unless one, not only has a chip on their shoulder, but lives and sleeps with one at all times. Well-educated people will know that slavery was actually brutal (12 Years a Slave, anyone?). Why does a work of art must agree to certain degrees of accuracy? What kinds of responsibility does a picture bear towards the truth? Is it really so insensitive to love the film for those dresses, those vistas and those characters dazzling in Technicolor? Continue reading

Triumph of the Will (1935), Leni Riefenstahl

Equally despised for its celebration of the Nazis and praised  for its technical artistry, Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 Triumph of the Will, a unique propaganda film, sits at the top of a controversial pile, indirectly questioning the very nature of artistic freedom and bias in art.

triumph-of-the-will-2Any reasonably educated person is well aware of the brutality of the Nazis and the unspeakable acts of barbarism perpetrated by the regime. The explosive cocktail of nationalism, racism and self-victimisation, instigated by Adolf Hitler, led to the destruction of Germany and the loss of tens of millions of lives across Europe. It is unnecessary to warn anyone of the evils associated with the National Socialist Party. However, Leni Riefenstahl’s astonishing documentary-cum-propaganda Triumph of the Will [Triumph des Willens] cannot be blamed for the atrocities derived from the ideology. Continue reading