Masters Of Cinema #91 - Frau Im Mond - Blu-ray Review

'Lang's film could easily have been condensed to under two hours and almost certainly would have felt stronger for it'.

Taken as a piece of film history - as so many of the Masters Of Cinema releases easily can be - Fritz Lang's Frau Im Mond ("Woman In The Moon") is undoubtedly a cinematic milestone. Regularly hailed as the first serious science-fiction film, the scientific approach towards space travel seen within Lang's film certainly feels like a significant shift away from the likes of Georges Méliès' fantastical Le Voyage Dans La Lune around a quarter of a century earlier. However, look past Frau Im Mond's iconic status and there are some key issues which make it less successful overall as some of Lang's other films.

The "serious science-fiction" accolade is one which Frau In Mond certainly deserves with regard to its presentation of the central characters' lunar voyage. Lang is unafraid to make his mission to the Moon a wholly scientific affair, having his characters use technical language and even presenting the audience with diagrams to demonstrate the meticulous research that has clearly gone into the crafting of his film. Considering Frau Im Mond was released four decades before Neil Armstrong's infamous giant leap for mankind, the consideration of relatively advanced factors such as G-force and weightlessness in Lang's film is impressively ahead of its time.

The scientific approach of Lang's direction also feeds directly into Frau Im Mond's most impressive cinematic moments. The central act focusing on the rocket journey from Earth to the Moon sees some spectacular special effects employed by the director, with visually striking sets and props still impressing over eighty years after the film's original release.

One of most detrimental issues within Frau Im Mond, however, is that of length. With a running time only ten minutes short of three hours, this is one of Lang's longest films, which is still over an hour shorter than his longest, Dr. Mabuse, Der Spieler. The difference, however, between these two mammoth pieces of cinema is one of justification: whilst Dr. Mabuse ultimately warrants its four-hour length, Frau Im Mond's one hundred and seventy minutes feel excessive. Lang's film could easily have been condensed to under two hours and almost certainly would have felt stronger for it.

The film's length is linked to a second key problem: pace. Whilst not a continuous slog by any means, there are several sections within Frau Im Mond which feel far too slow and drawn out, particularly during the film's opening act. Much of what happens within the first hour essentially seems superfluous to the story Lang is telling, stretching out what feel like minor details into protracted and at times tedious scenes. The torpidity of Lang's film also has a negative effect on the development of its characters and their individual narratives, in particular the romantic triangle between Helius (Willy Fritsch), Windegger (Gustav von Wangenheim) and Friede (Gerda Maurus), which only really begins to go anywhere somewhere within the second hour.

Taken purely as a piece of entertainment, Frau Im Mond feels uneven, only really coming into its own after a sluggish opening act, and even then still suffering somewhat from its excessively long running time. Its main appeal remains its historical importance and comprehensively impressive and unwavering use of fact-based science throughout. This is not Lang's best, but there is still plenty here worthy of your attention.

Founded in 2004, The Masters of Cinema Series is an independent, carefully curated, UK-based Blu-ray and DVD label, now consisting of over 150 films. Films are presented in their original aspect ratio (OAR), in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.

Frau Im Mond is released in the UK on Monday 25th August 2014

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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