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Spies
(Spione)

Live Piano Accompaniment by Martin Marks
Screening on Film
Directed by Fritz Lang.
With Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Gerda Maurus, Lien Deyers.
Germany, 1928, 35mm, black & white, silent, 178 min.
German intertitles with English subtitles.
Print source: HFA

The brief prologue of Lang’s first independent production condenses the spy genre to a cascade of iconographic images: hands pilfering a secret document from a safe, a motorcyclist’s daring escape, newspaper headlines reporting the crime, the murder of a diplomat followed swiftly by the dispatching of the crime’s sole witness, and, irreducibly, the smiling visage of the criminal mastermind behind it all. Like that of Mabuse, Haghi’s power is a function of his ability to observe and control events across time and space, an emergent form of panopticism Lang details, almost lovingly, with crisp insert shots and a breathless pacing. With each discrete image threatening to pull the film into its own orbit, Spies gives ideal expression to the director’s insight that modernity can only be grasped as a series of converging simultaneities—an essentially conspiratorial vision forty years ahead of Jacques Rivette and Thomas Pynchon’s similarly elaborate narratives.

Spies introduction by accompanist and film historian Martin Marks. ©Harvard Film Archive

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The Complete Fritz Lang

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The Dark Worlds of Fritz Lang – Part Two

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