Nazis vs. the Rule of Law: Allegory and Narrative Structure in Fritz Lang’s M

Horst Lange


Since Kracauer, most readings of Fritz Lang’s M have tacitly assumed that a proper understanding of the murderer is the key element to any serious reading of the movie. However, a careful analysis of the film’s narrative structure reveals that the murderer is little more than a plot function. His actions only trigger and accelerate the action in the film while an allegorical narrative unfolds. The real struggle presented occurs not between the murderer and those trying to catch him, but between two political paradigms that vie for legitimacy vis-à-vis “the people” and in fact played prominent roles in the late Weimar Republic’s political crisis: National Socialism (represented by the criminal underworld) and a state ruled by the constitutional principle of the rule of law (represented by the police). Such a reading is able to shed new light on Lang’s political Romanticism. (HL)

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