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The Dark Worlds of Fritz Lang – Part One

The forty films Fritz Lang directed span diverse political situations, geographical settings, and historical moments, from his monumental Ufa productions of the Weimar era to genre films in Hollywood and postwar Germany. As a corpus, they offer exemplary lessons in the possibilities of cinema; indeed, they have helped define what we might expect of the medium in its most dynamic countenance. In the first part of this continuing retrospective, curated by Harvard Professor of German Eric Rentschler, we examine works from Lang’s early years in Germany. Here, the mise-en-scène is one of complicated setups and disturbing prospects; its preferred spaces are urban haunts and subterranean reaches; its field of vision alternates strategically between partial views and panoptic gazes. Like his renowned protagonist Dr. Mabuse, Lang’s sensibility is akin to the criminal mastermind’s in its detailed precision, obsessive calculation, and analytical finesse--creating dark worlds that are, in equal measure, enthralling, disturbing, and imposing.