Monday, June 1, 2015

TODAY'S NUGGET: M (1931) - Establishing That Dark & Creepy Noir Tone

[Quick Summary: A child murderer is on the loose in 1930s Berlin.]

The Turner Classic Movie channel (TCM) is sponsoring "TCM Summer of Darkness," a film noir festival every Friday in June and July.

It is also sponsoring "Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir," a FREE e-course to go along with the programming.*  I plan to follow along (and hope you do too).

(FYI: I also hope to read a bunch of these scripts for the blog.)

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No film noir festival would be complete without M.

Why? Because M explores the dark and creepy, but with a specific idea/message, as good films should.  Here, I think it's about taking action when feeling helpless.

How? From page one, it establishes the dark and creepy tone.

Note that the visual is of innocence and exclusion together:

ex. "EXT. COURTYARD - CITY BLOCK - BERLIN, GERMANY - 1930 A.D. - DAY

FADE IN on a HIGH ANGLE - A group of children, standing in a circle, play a game. In the center of the circle, a LITTLE GIRL points her finger from one child to another in rhythm with the chant. [High angle peers down like an all seeing eye.]

LITTLE GIRL (chants): Just you wait a little while, The evil man in black will come. And with his little chopper, He will chop you up. [Innocent kids are playing a bloodthirsty game, as kids do.]

The LITTLE GIRL stops in front of one of her playmates and gestures for her to leave the circle.

LITTLE GIRL: You're out. [The kids aren't worried about the evil man out there (though we are).]

The child leaves the circle and the game continues." [This summarizes the whole film - kids leave and life continues.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: One way to establish a dark and creepy tone is to amplify unease, ex. juxtapose two contrasting emotions like innocence and exclusion.

M (1931)
by Thea von Harbou & Fritz Lang

* If you don't have cable, you can still take the class because each lesson comes with links to publicly available clips.

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