28. Fritz Lang
METROPOLIS, DR. MABUSE, M, FURY
Nobody shows desperation like Lang. Though he often did procedural-type films, his best moments were always in big action set pieces (for their day anyway) – the flooded room in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, the mob scene in Fury, the pivotal turning point in The Big Heat…everything in Metropolis. Pushing his characters into such extreme situations, revealing their innermost survival instincts, he can even gain our sympathy, if for a moment, for a child murderer. It’s a mark of his talent and willpower that he didn’t let up upon landing in America, establishing and making some of the most vital work in the burgeoning film noir genre. He left everything up for grabs – his protagonist’s sanity (Fury and Ministry of Fear), their family (The Big Heat), and even their motivations (his unexpectedly great domestic drama, Clash by Night) – and constantly took from his characters and audiences the foundations we’d come to expect. It’s no wonder that one critic once quipped, of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, “once you’ve seen Fritz Lang, what’s the point?”
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