First part of Mabuse trilogy captured mood of Weimar Germany

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 August, 2012, 8:21am

Dr Mabuse the Gambler: A Portrait of Our Time/Inferno, A Play of People in Our Time

Of Fritz Lang's trilogy of films about a mind-controlling criminal kingpin, the second instalment is probably the most well-known. Banned by the Nazi regime,
The Testament of Dr Mabuse (1933) is regarded as the film which led to the Austrian director's exile to the US.

The premise of the incarcerated titular character's master plans somehow being brought to fruition outside jail inspired many a criminal thriller for decades to come. What set the manipulating doctor on the road to infamy, however, had arrived more than a decade earlier with the 4½-hour
Dr Mabuse, the Gambler (1922).

A masterful psychologist who is adept at changing his appearance and other people's minds, Dr Mabuse exerts control in nearly all social domains, be it dodgy gambling dens (where he gains capital for his schemes) or the stock market (in which he earns even more by toying with phantom deals and shady contracts which jolt bourses into meltdown).

While Dr Mabuse has foot soldiers to help him achieve his objectives, his menace is deadly because of its omnipresence. People are constantly nudged by an invisible force into doing things which undermine their well-being.

It's here that
Dr Mabuse lives up to the titles accorded its two parts: genre films they may be, but they are also reflections of the circumstances engulfing Germany in the 1920s, with the Weimar regime rocked by economic depression and the masses searching for a saviour.

The rest, of course, is history.
Clarence Tsui

Dr Mabuse the Gambler: A Portrait of Our Time,
Sep 2, 2.30pm, Science Museum, Sep 8, 5pm, HK Film Archive; Inferno, A Play of People in Our Time,
Sep 2, 6pm, Science Museum, Sep 8, 8.30pm, HK Film Archive. This silent movie has live musical accompaniment by Ernesto Maurice Corpus.
Part of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department's "Fritz Lang" retrospective, which runs until November 18