In honour of last night’s Dexter finale (no spoilers here, I haven’t seen it yet!) let’s take a look at the great Peter Lorre’s performance in M.
Lorre plays Hans Beckert, a serial killer who preys on children. Unlike Dexter, Lorre does not have matinee idol looks. Nor does he have a “noble” reason to kill people. Like Dexter, Lorre has something deep inside of him that compels him to kill.
In this scene he has been captured and brought before a makeshift court. He pleads his case to a mostly passive audience.
Watch the video and discuss these questions. Don’t worry about whether or not everyone has seen the whole movie. Fill in the missing details using what you see, hear, and imagine.
- The scene is in German with English subtitles. First watch the scene covering up the subtitles. Can you figure out what the scene is about? What clues do you get from the actor and the director?
- Why is he so aggressive before the audience at the beginning?
- Do you believe Beckert? Do you think he is out of control of his actions?
- Do you feel any sympathy for him?
- Why is the audience (apart from the shot of the two women) so unemotional?
- Why do you think the two women are so upset?
- Note that he kneels throughout his performance. Why did the actor make that choice? What practical reason would the director have for that choice?
- Watch the segment from 1:58-2:15. He pauses, but notice all the acting he uses to fill that pause. What is the actor communicating in that pause?
- This movie was made in 1931 when nearly all films were shot in black and white. If you were to shoot this scene today would you choose to shoot it in colour or black and white? Why?