Trading Places: "Dr. Mabuse" and the Pleasure of Role Play

by Sara Hall
Trading Places: "Dr. Mabuse" and the Pleasure of Role Play
Sara Hall
The German Quarterly
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University of Illinois at Chicago

Trading Places: Dr. Mabuse and the Pleasure of Role Play

Upon its release in 1922, Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou's two-part "Sensations- film" series Dr: Mabuse, der grope Spieler: Ein Bild unserer Zeit and Dm Inferno: Ein Spiel von Menschen unserer Zeit struck a chord with an eager public, which found in the films a startling expression of its own ex- periences of upheaval and insecurity.l En- thusiastic reviews written upon the pre- miere of the first installment, Dr: Mabuse, clergi-ope Spieler, heralded the film's ability to reflect and document the Weimar Republic's tumultuous state of affairs. The Berliner Lokalanzeiger described it as a mirror of the age, and noted that, though it was not espe- cially uplifting, it was-as a result of the vi- sual power of Fritz Lang's hection- ennobling and genuine in its effect (qtd. in Eisner 57). The B.Z. am Mittag reported that by condensing the spirit of the time into a rapid succession of sensations and adventures, the film successfully fulfdled its function of por- traying an age set in motion, thus playfhlly re-enacting and mirroring life (qtd. in Eisner 57). On May 1,1922,Die Welt am Montag praised the film as a document of its time and a superb portrait of high society, noting its passion for gambling and dance, its decadent hysteria and its expressionism and occultism (qtd. in Eisner 58). Perhaps prompted by the films' German subtitles, Part I "Ein Bild un- serer Zeit" and Part I1 "Menschen unserer Zeit," such early responses to the film reveal themselves to be embedded in a unique vari- ant of the reflection model. Fritz Lang himselfunderscored the factor of reflection in his essay "Kitsch, Sensation-Kultur und Film," originally published in E. Beyfkss and A.

Kossowsky's 1924 Dm Kulturfilmbuch, declaring that the ultimate vocation of the cin- ema is to provide a record of contemporary times and that Dr: Mabuse owed its appeal to its exceptional abihty to do so.

It is striking to see the readiness with which Lang and his critics placed, sought, and found in the film a "record" or a "docu- ment" of their own experiences, particularly because today's scholars in film studies and cultural studies are so aware of the short- comings of the reflection model. By contrast, we are inclined to complicate the film's rela- tionship to its time, choosinginstead to elab- orate on the ways in which the text engages in, works through, and thus transforms the hstorical discourses and cultural moments evoked by its story. Despite the fact that con- temporary scholars see "more" in the film than the earliest commentators may have discerned from such close proximity, it is im- portant that we not dsmiss responses to the film that rely on this kind of language. They have certainly proven usefd in new scholar- ship on the film, which uses the reviews and the director's commentary as a springboard into discussions of the film's negotiation of the experience of modernity (Gunning) or as a case study for the gap that existed between Weimar intellectuals' abhty to represent and recognize the pathologies of the age and their blind displacement of these pathologies through the development and analysis of elaborate metaphors, a process which per- mitted a lack of self-recognition that became fatal to the Republic (Elsaesser).

Like my contemporaries, I build my anal- ysis of Lang's first Dr: Mabuse installments

The German Quarterly 76.4 (Fall2003) 381

on the moment of self-recognition that oc- curred upon the film series' premiere, but I shft the emphasis of the discussion away from broader hstorical and philosophical con- cerns in order to look in more detail at cine- matic spectatorship as it is instantiated in the two-part series. I contend that precisely because of their reliance on a rhetoric of re- flection and documentation, these comments and reviews present us with a perplexing yet provocative estimation of the relationship between early Weimar movie auhences and the films they loved. My analysis explores the reasons why such terms of self-referentiality and identification might have served so well to describe the audience's experience of the films. At the same time it demonstrates that the notions of reflection and documentation oversimplifj. the complex relationship that exists between the film text, film history, and audience history.

If we take the Weimar reviewers at their word, we can conclude that the mode of spec- tatorshp practiced by the historical audience was to a large degree one of self-recognition and identification. Yet the fantastic DI:Mabuse films do not display the realistic and ob- jective visual qualities one would expect of a film touted as reenacting and mirroring life. Rather, their portrayal of contemporary re- ality is achieved through high stylization and narrative exaggeration, which results in a complex allegorical representation of the pres- ent moment (Gunning 91). It would seem that the fact that the film's style was anythingbut documentary encouraged its first audiences to see their own world projected on the screen. What is more, the spokespeople for that au- dience were prompted to celebrate the film's expression of such negative social attributes as vice, chaos, and hysteria. I contend that in order to understand the curious pull that the exaggerated themes exerted, we must pay closer attention to the way gender and sexu- ality factor into the audience's pleasure. By making what might at first appear to be an unlikely comparison between this film and films of a seemingly different genre, the hor- ror film, I seek to demonstrate that the fluid- ity of gender identity and the disruption in the economy of sexual desire contribute to both the terror and the appeal of the film and thus must be factored into our understand- ing of its viewers' and critics' responses.

It All Begins with Misrecognition

In her canonical survey of Fritz Lang's ceuvre, film critic and historian of German Expressionism Lotte Eisner has provided one of the central historical accounts of the film's original print-one that remains a valuable asset to contemporary scholars. Even in its weakest moment, her reminiscence offers a point of entry into the question of why the early Weimar Republic audience would have been particularly eager to claim participa- tion in this negatively coded drama of iden- tity determination and exchange. Citing Lang, Eisner writes that the film originally opened with a short and quickly paced montage se- quence of the Spartacus uprising, the mur- der of Foreign Minister Walter Rathenau, and the Kapp Putsch, followed by two inter- titles that read, "WHO IS BEHIND ALL THIS?" The second title, a single word that rushed towards the spectator, growing and growing until it fded the entire screen: "I" (59).

It is obvious that this account of the in- troductory sequence, whether formulated by Lang or Eisner, is apocryphal, or at the very least a case of misremembering. Rathe- nau was not murdered by political conspira- tors until June 1922, but this first part of the film had already premiered at the UFA-Palast am Zoo on April 27, 1922.' What is more, the Munich Film Museum's recent careful reconstruction of the film contains no such scene, although it is precisely ths se- quence that opens their painstakingly refur- bished print of the later Lang film Spione (1926). It appears that at a historical dis- tance, either Eisner or Lang (or some combi- nation thereof) has merged the two films to- gether. Despite, or perhaps even as aresult of the confusion, this legend says a great deal about the films' themes and about audien- ces' and critics' expectations in the context of early Weimar history. The fact that until the recent restoration of the two works film his- tory had conflated the opening sequences of Dr:Mabuse, der grope Spieler and Spione shows us that the Dr:Mabuse series has been remembered as the Weimar narrative about the pursuit of an enounced "I" who can be held responsible for the seemingly random chaotic political, economic, and violent con- tingencies of modern life.

For the German audience of 1922, these dsruptions were distinct from, but not unre- lated to, shifts in spatial, temporal, and social relations associated with the development of European modernity in general. These films were made and released in one of the most tumultuous periods of twentieth-century Ger- manhistory: police and government authori- ties struggled to gain the upper hand in a na- tion torn apart by revolution, street fighting, political assassinations, and unprecedented inflation. Everyone was seeking plausible ex- planations for and feasible solutions to these problems. The film thus entailed more than a wild ride through the metropolitan under- world. Rather, it must be read as an allegory for the attempt to determine responsibility in the socio-political context-both in the film text and beyond. Like Dr:Mabuse, Spione also stars Rudolf Klein-Rogge, so the confla- tion of the two opening sequences can also be read as a merging of the two characters, a cognitive step that affirms the status of the fictional Mabuse as an omnipresent, omnip- otent "master crimindgrand enunciator" (Gunning 118).

Until recent scholarship and restoration work corrected the Eisnerbang account of the opening sequence, Mabuse's influence extended beyond the confines of the single film text and thus reigned as the single meta- phor for modernity and the power of vision in all of Lang's work, if not Weimar Cinema in general. The dominant assumption has been that the pleasure of watching the film was rooted in the vicarious gesture of placing blame for the woes of the time on a single in- dividual. But as I argue here, this sense of satisfaction was illusory, for despite all the tools of modernity placed at the disposal of both the protagonist and the spectator, the film ultimately defies any efforts to pin down the culprit. The pleasure of the film and the source of its audience's self-recognition must lie elsewhere.

Follow That Man

As seen in the newly restored print, the very first shot of Dr:Mabuse, dergrope Spie- ler locks the spectator into the inquisitive process of determining that criminal's iden- tity, but broaches the question of social, polit- ical, and economic responsibility more sub- tly than the opening sequence of Spies. Filling in the visual details left unrepresented in the language of the title, Lang's film opens with a close-up of a fan of "identity cardsn- photographs resembling playing cards from which the mysterious Mabuse will choose his latest disguised criminal incarnation. The eponymous anti-hero is identified by name in the intertitles, thus affirming the attempt to establish equivalence. As the cards are folded together into a neat pile, the image dissolves into the single body of the one man who will incorporate these instantiations over the course of the film's narrative. With- in seconds, the camera achieves the goal that drives the coming four-hour pursuit: to iso- late and identify Mabuse, to see him, recognize him, and inscribe his singularity into the multiple roles he occupies. This is not a drama of identity determination in the sense of a "who-dunnit," because unlike in the tra- ditional detective story, the audience is not set in pursuit of the solution to a rationalist puzzle on the basis of intricate clues (Gun- ning 89). From the moment the film opens, the audience has been introduced to the criminal in his home and amongst his collab- orators-there hardly seems to be any mys- tery involved.

The film rolls on and Mabuse shuffles the deck, splits it, and chooses a persona in the form of a face on a card; it too is isolated in close-up. This cinematic gesture might in- spire confidence in the spectator by pointing out the relationship between the man and the disguise and promising the camera's loyal duty to repeat the demonstration faith- fully over the course of the narrative. But the effect is in fact the opposite; it is eerie and suspect because the singularity of the physi- ognomy that offers itself to the camera has been dispelled. We see that Mabuse is one man with many faces and our access to the correspondence is only temporary. We are left to wonder what willhappen ifthe camera cuts away and we miss the process of identity selection and performance. The spectator's faith in the cinematic apparatus to expose the identity of the man behind the mask has been sparked and at the same time shaken.

From there the film follows the generic model of the sensation-films of the period, which are driven by a succession of exciting sequences strung together for dramatic ef- fect (Gunning 99), but Lang has inhsed the drama with something more: an unsettling self-referentiahty In order to follow the film and become absorbed in the adventures of its protagonist, the spectator knows he or she must recognize Mabuse's face and body through the remainder of the viewing expe- rience. The presentation of the photographs at this early point in the film entails a prom- ise that the film to follow dl compensate for whatever the photographic might be feared to lack. The opening sequence of the film begs its viewer to believe in the connected- ness between the photographic images and the (tentatively) stable common "content" of the photographs, Mabuse himself, and the narrative development that proceeds from that sequence grants us an initial sense of this connection.

The transfonnation of the man is as much the interest of the film as are the schemes and plotting. As the intrigue of Mabuse's scheme to steal a Swiss monetary contract for the purpose of disturbing stock values unfolds, the plot alone locks us into a curious interest in the outcome. At the same time, crosscutting enables us to see Mabuse back

Fall 2003

at home, this time transformed into his lat- est character. The parallel editing implies a temporal and spatial link between the undis- guised man of the opening and the man in- cognito in the second section of the story. Brisk crosscutting also implies a link be- tween the various elements of the robbery episode: the man in the car, the train com- partment attack, and the call from the tele- phone pole. The series of close-ups coordi- nating the pocket watches of Mabuse and his henchmen provides an assurance of the tem- poral and causal connectedness of every- thing shown. At the center stands the mas- termind criminal.

Additional visual cues provide cognitive incentives for continuing to "follow" the man of many faces as one must "follow" the nar- rative events. The various written messages exchanged between characters and displayed to the viewer as intertitles maintain a steady confidence in the spectator's potential mas- tery Mabuse's activities. Mabuse's card to his lover Cara Carozza reads, "Weitere Be- fehle findest Du dort vor," an example of the isolated intertitles that appear on function- ing props, but which contain messages di- rected as much to the audience as to the diegetic participants. All that remains un- clear in the present moment of the frame is offered to the spectator in animplied future perfect: by the end of this film, you will have learned the details; you wdl have received further instructions. The promise of the pending pay-off provides the pleasure of the immediate moment of mystery.

The film is similarly interspersed with a number of dissolves and superimpositions joining Mabuse's natural face with his dis- guised face, which encourage the spectator to guess confidently at the identity of the criminal in scenes where he is not pointed out. The stock market incident, for example, follows shortly after the opening dissolve that had fulfilled the promise to expose the identity transformations, yet quite deliber- ately challenges the viewer's certainty about which man on the floor is Mabuse. The iris-in and a brief domineering upward angle close- up provide an initial indication, and Mabuse moves up onto a podium, where he is highly visible above the crowd. However, in a subse- quent shot he is seen down on the floor, and in the following view of the flurry of traders, the blur of overcoat-clad, mustached men creates anonymity and a clone-like impres- sion, which reinstills the fear that the insti- gator will be lost in the melee. Mabuse moves again to the podium to sell the overvalued stock, but threatens to disappear once again in an eye-level shot over the shoulders of the crowd. He stands above the fray again to buy up the devalued shares and the threat is alle- viated through yet another slow dissolve from the disguise to the Mabuse recogniz- able from the opening scene. The dissolve provides unity of the image and the concept of identity after the fad, seeming to implore, "Youknew it was him all along, didn't you?!"

The epistemological imperative to the spectator parallels the one that dominates the society Mabuse disrupts. To the charac- ters in the film, he is "der grol3e Unbekann- te." Officially under warrant for arrest as an impostor and a lawless gambler, the root of hs criminality lies beyond his actual crimi- nal activity, residing instead in his multiplic- ity. His very being elides the mechanisms of rationalized containment and control regu- lating the modern urban society in which he lives. He is culturally unintelligible, illegible, and incalculable and so represents all that is destructive to the economic and social order.

Staatsanwalt von Wenk is introduced to the plot as the man who possesses the cul- tural authority to locate, identify, and appre- hend the deviant, thus promising to bring the threatening force under the purview of institutional surveillance and maintenance. Through von Wenk's methods of identity de- termination, the boundaries of cultural in- telligibility and legitimacy are policed in the attempt to realize the fantasy that any indi- vidual can be assigned a position by the au- thorities. Ideally this assignment will delimit the bounds of the individual under the name1 signifier assigned to him and the relation- ship will thereupon become circular: having been identified by culture and society, the in- dividual will act his or her part and play his or her role according to the social rules that went into carving out that part and role. In this film the naming imperative is quite literal. Everyone in the fdm believes that once Staatsanwalt von Wenk is able to recognize and name the great "Unknown, " he will im- pede the criminal activities.

The recognition of a person's identity is primarily a visual fundion, and this film re- volves around a crisis in culture's ability to see and therefore control (Elsaesser 170). Von Wenk banks his authority as criminolo- gist on the potency of his gaze. From Lom- broso's theories of phrenology through the rapid sophistication of techniques of crimi- nal photography and fingerprinting in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centu- ries, the modern science of criminology prop- agated methods for recognizing and visibly marking individuals who disrupt the social order. The distribution of identity cards re- plete with photographs contributed to a cul- ture in which a society knows and signifies its members, whether deviant or conformist. The physiognomy of the individual, in the photograph or in person, is conceived as re- flective of the determined identity: singular, stable and enframed. The apparently stable signifier of the photograph implies the exis- tence of a si@ed to which it refers icon- ically.

In principle, von Wenk should embody the overarching cultural subject, represent- ing the law that offers and manages the im- ages its citizens (and thus the movie specta- tors) are to identlfy with. His authority is metonymically related to the transcendental signifier of the Law, that which should be self-identical, transparent, and beyond the necessity of naming and categorization. That cultural authority is supposed to see without being seen and so bears the poten- tial to parallel the position of the cinematic narrator as articulated by the camera. But in and through von Wenk and the authority he represents in this film, the fantasy of visual agency is problematized; the question is posed as to whether he can be the transcen- dental looker to whom the world (and thus the film text) conforms entirely The severity of this potential failing on the part of the State's Attorney is underscored by the im- pression that the dangerous Mabuse does posses the power of that potent gaze. Every- thing he looks upon conforms to his will and desire. The question remains, what effect does this failing have on the spectator's expe- rience of the diegetic world?


In order to explore this question, we frst need to consider two other queries: Wherein lies the threat of ths powerful gaze and why is it of utmost importance that the cultural and social authorities repossess it from him? There is more to it than von Wenk's jealousy of Mabuse's influence and appeal to the women in the cast of characters, or even mo- dernity's drive toward surveillance and sys- tematic ordering. A crucial dimension of the answer lies in the processes of identification en-gendered by Mabuse's gaze.

The battle for control in the film takes place between the two main male characters. Soli-ng the centrality of the male subject of culture and vision, the potent gaze is es- tablished as masculine as soon as the female characters are introduced. This introduction takes place at the Folie Bergeres, where an audience gathers to look upon nude women in a series of artistic tableaux vivants and to revel in the sensuous performances of caba- ret dancers such as Cara Carozza. In this scene the spectator is cast in avoyeuristicpo- sition associated with the male portion of the audience.Vhe comic vignette between the man with the spectacles and his prudish wife that is embedded in this scene complicates this viewing position. The woman takes away her husband's spectacles when he displays his pleasure in the show, demonstrating that she does not experience the male-centered heterosexual desire on whch the perfor- mance is predicated. By cutting off his view she effectively "castrates" his vision. A fe- male equivalent of the privileged desiring gaze is rendered impossible, and at the same time the potent male gaze is threatened. The spectator is left to choose between three posi- tions: theone previously enjoyed by the man, which is one of desire and agency; the one of the woman, devoid of desire and pleasure; or the one of the man after his wife has taken his spectacles, cut out of the chain of looking, enjoying, and potentially possessing.

The impulse to maintain a position like the one enjoyed by the man before his wife's interference motivates the struggle for pow- er that plays out between Mabuse and Staatsanwalt von Wenk (Elsaesser 174).On the stage, Cara Carozza dances between the phallic noses ofthe plaster props on the stage just as she performs between the trajectories of the gazes of the two most significant desir- ing audience members: Mabuse and Edgar Hull (the wealthy young bachelor). But once Mabuse is settled at his box seat in the club, he turns his gaze from Cara to Hull. The viewer shares his look through a gradually sharpening matte-shot as Mabuse brings his binoculars into focus on the playboy. At this dramatic moment, the categories of mascu- line and feminine under which the scene and by extension the society of this narra- tivmperate are disrupted. A man (Edgar Hull) is feminized by virtue of hs position as object of the gaze. The hypnotic manipula- tion he is about to undergo will serve to com- plete his emasculation.

As the plot continues tounfold, it becomes apparent that Mabuse's relationships with those around him are established through acts of seduction and hypnosis, which alle- gorize incorporative psychosocial processes of identification that are associated first and foremost with the women in the cast. Cara, for example, is presented as empty and pas- sive, the object of the gaze and the pawn in the man's criminal scheming. Conforming to the stereotype that women are particularly suited to receptive relationships with others (an assumption perhaps most simply rooted in pregnancy as the ultimate model of the introjection of an Other), this film offers in Cara a primary female protagonist who is in essence a mere shell to be fdled and pos- sessed by male desire. The second female protagonist, GrXin Told, plays a more com- plicated role. Socially limited to a lifestyle as zero-placeholder waiting to be assigned value, she experiences extreme boredom and fatigue, and so actively seeks a surrogate ele- ment to fill the void in her life. She is cast as a spectator in the film, but not as an active one; she is a passive observer in contrast to Mabuse andvon Wenk (Gunning 107).When von Wenk asks to be introduced to her, he is told, "In den Spielkreisen nennt man sie: 'he Unaktive,' das sie selbst niemals spielt." Rather than living her own version of the high life, she vampiristically siphons thrills

from the moods and sensations of those around her, even those as unappealing and weak as the American gambler hypnotized by Mabuse in Club Schramm. Convinced that she possesses no desire ofher own, she is attracted to both von Wenk and to Mabuse. Von Wenk is able to persuade her to leave her place on the sidelines of the poker table and to pose as a society woman arrested at a gam- bling hall, and to thus assume a second-hand surrogate identity in the service of his mis- sion.

Mabuse, on the other hand, offers her an external image of a desiring subject with which she can identify directly. In the jailcell where von Wenk has planted her in order to extract information about the master crimi- nal from his lover Cara, the countess breaks her promise to von Wenk and declares her loyalty to his nemesis. By taking on his plans and intrigues, she gains an ego identity she felt she lacked before. But this sense of being a player is nothing more than another of his great illusions. Mabuse preys on women like Grafin Told and Cara precisely because of their placeholder status. For him, woman is the perfect tool. Cara recognizes this when she pleads to Mabuse, "Bin ich dir wirklich garnichts mehr als nur ein Werkzeug?" Per- ceived by both Mabuse and the culture of his time asnatural mimic and role-player, the fe- male subject provides the fdm's anti-hero with another potential instantiation of his criminal personality.

Interestingly, despite his ability to cross the barriers of age, class, nationality and lan- guage, Mabuse never disguises himself as a woman. Because of this inabihty--or perhaps refusal-to pass as another sex, Mabuse requires the services of actual women. Their bodies, possessed by his inten- tions, can go where his will cannot take him and where he does not want to be. Cara transforms herself into an appealing seduc- tress in order to get Hull where Mabuse wants hm. She also goes to prison in his place when he avoids being apprehended. While sitting in the jail cell, the performer functions as a body double; the psychological incorporation has become for her a physical incarceration.

The intertitle that follows the murder of Hull calls out: "Die Frau . . .! Verhaftet die Frau!!" Law is out of order, and the woman represents the excess, misplaced desire of Mabuse circulating in the city. The dominant perception is that once the woman is con- tained, the criminal's slippery influence can be better monitored. It is certainly not the case that the social authorities represented by von Wenk intend to challenge the manner in which Mabuse manipulates the women; they merely want to repossess the right to that manner of manipulation. Von Wenk, like Mabuse, believes in woman's capacity for mimicry and over-identification and so considers Cara's arrest a victory in the pur- suit of the great "Unbekannte." When the Staatsanwalt places the countess in the cell, he does so precisely because he expects the two women to identlfy with one another so that Cara willloosen her tie to Mabuse. Even from the beginning of the scene, GrXin Told is no freer than Cara from the social bind be- cause of her association with the law. Her face and body are consistently shadowed by the bars of the cell while she converses with the showgirl-she is there to act on von Wenk's plans. Shown like split-screen dou- bles, Cara and GrXin Told occupy the same prison cell of male-validated identification.

It ends tragically for Cara, who responds melancholically to Mabuse's retreat from her and commits suicide, destroying herself in the face of her failure to retain Mabuse as ego ideal. She dies because she believes in love; she looks to the masculine Other as the source of her position as a subject and when he is gone, so is her framework for believing in herself. In an ideal, reciprocal love rela- tionship, her subjecthood might be validated by the return of respect for her as the source of identity; however, she has fallen in love with a man who does not believe in such an exchange. Upon hearing of Cara's devotion to him, Mabuse tells the countess, "Es gibt keine Liebe, es gibt nur Begehren." Mabuse operates by denying, colonizing, and essen- tially murdering those around him. His se- ductive appeal and kidnapping schemes serve to gain for him the possession and con- trol of all others. He cries out upon stealing the countess away, "Mein!!!"

Twisting the Chains of Identification

Significantly Mabuse's hypnotic spells function toward the same ends, but almost always have men, not women, as their ob- jects. And it is for this that he is considered so dangerous to society, after all, not for his treatment of women. Mabuse is guilty of dis- rupting the gender economy by engaging in interactions with men that are structured like those he has with women. If women are the passive placeholders to be gazed upon and granted validity through others in this binary gender system, those who gaze and grant should be men. According to such a model, man's possession of identity is an on- tological given. His role is to actively be and assert himself though his relations with oth- ers by demonstrating self-control and per- sonal d.His ego is erected and stabilized though an assertive mode of identification.

The film shows us how complex it can be for a man to engage in identification with an- other man in a system where the male role is based in active identification and the female role in receptive identification. Someone in the exchange must be feminized. It is through his hypnotic gaze that Mabuse divests his male victims of their willand self-control and re-constitutes them according to his inten- tion and desire-he feminizes them. Mabu- se's gaze has the power to destroy his soci- ety's lllusion of an immediate, secure, and totalizable male self When Mabuse subdues his object, he reminds those around him of the potential for any subject to play apassive role and thus to be vulnerable to the infdtra- tion of another--even a man. In a visible manner he uses this power to maintain con- trol over his gang of criminals: through his oblique stare he warns Spoerri and Pesch that their mediocre performance may lead to severe punishment. We see in their cases as well that a subject of either sex can be fem- inized.

Looking more closely at the means by which Mabuse enforces his power we see that the madman's victim loses all self-con- trol under hypnosis. Against their will, both GrafTold and Edgar Hull gamble away their money and their good names. Hull draws the winning cards and then throws them away, leading him to plead afterwards "Was geht mit mir vor?" The countess says of the count as he approaches the card table, "Merk- wiirdig . . . Mein Mann spielt sonst nie!" The values of the terms "mir" and "mein Mann" as the characters understand them have been altered. The signified of those simiers has shifted from "Hull" or "Graf Told" to "MABUSE." Unlike Cara, who gives herself willingly to the criminal's desires, these men have been manipulated against their will.

Continuing with the postulation that Lang's fdm dramatizes the destructive colo- nization of the other through dominating identification and borrowing a notion from Diana Fuss's description of the metaphor of contagion in early psychoanalytic literature, I suggest that under Mabuse's spell, Edgar Hull and Count Told experience identifica- tion as a sudden affliction, a violent incur- sion from outside (10741). In a manner of speaking, they have been infected. Individ- ually, Hull and Graf Told have been injected with the infectious seeds of two states that do not conform to the expectations of the gen- der paradigm governing their lives. First, by inappropriately and unwillingly identlfylng with another, both men suffer from a condi- tion that might be likened to hysteria. Tradi- tionally associated with mimicry, over-iden- tification, and the plasticity of subject forma- tion and considered to be a woman's ailment, hysteria multiplies the number of identifica- tory roles and the possibility for relations of transference. The hysteric subject engages in competing multiple identifications where a secure and totalized sense of self is lacking. The tic-like behaviors performed by Hull and Graf Told-their repeatedly touching the backs of their necks and complaining of headaches-stand as readable symptoms of their psychological dysfunction.

The second threat to the gender catego- ries of the culture in this film has to do with the possibility that the object at the goal-end of the chain of desire set into action by Mabuse's identification process might be male. According to Fuss's account of the de- velopment of the concept of identification as a social bond in Freud's early work, object cathexis serves to provide a safe heterosocial model for conceiving of a non-eroticized tie between same-sex subjects (112-16). A ho- mosocial bond between men is proposed in order that same-sex cultural relations not be contaminated by the implications of homo- sexual desire.

When considering Lang's film in this light, the question arises as to the nature of Mabuse's relationship with the men he hyp- notizes. What is Mabuse doing by hypnotiz- ing the men and attracting the women? It ap- pears that he is engaged in eliminatingrivals and acquiring the objects of his desire. But whch is which? We could easily make a case for the women being the objects of desire and the men being obstacles to be overcome on Mabuse's path of seduction. However, given that he already has Cara under his influence when the narrative opens, it seems equally if not more likely that the women are the ves- sels or tools (as Cara puts it to Mabuse) used by the madman to get him closer to Hull and the count. We might be able to build several good cases for a variety of chains of projected desire at work, but it seems to be the most appropriate to leave the question open, pointing out the ambiguity inherent in the representation (Fuss 109). There is much to suggest here that the foundation of the dual binary model of masculine vs. feminine and heterosexual vs. homosocial relations has been dislodged. The fdm thus thematizes sexual indeterminacy and reveals gender and sex- ual identity to be nothing beyond an imita- tion without an essence, evoking that which Judith Butler has theorized in our own time. These aspects of our selves are an external performance strategized to work within the context of larger social construct (138-39).

Yet it cannot be ignored that within the diegetic world Mabuse reserves this power to subdue (and thus to feminize) through pro- cesses of identification for himself. While the fdm text does begin to hint at the radical po- tential of the types of gender crossings de- scribed above, that potential is never truly realized. Note once more that Mabuse never disguises himself as a woman. The closest he comes is putting women's shoes outside his hotel room door to throw Staatsanwalt von Wenk off his trail. The gaze has the power to feminize a recognizable male subject; how- ever, no subject of the female sex is ever granted possession of that gaze. According to the fdm's gender economy, if the potent gaze is to be defended, its foundation in a visibly masculine subject must also be maintained. Transvestism would entd too radical a dis- ruption of the binary gender model in which patriarchal power is grounded. The cultural binary of heterosexual relations is thereby repeatedly enforced up to the end of the film, shaking but never totally dismantling the patriarchal authority str~dure.~

Exchange and Investment

Society appears to be coming apart at the seams, but not because its members' egos are invested in identifications with an external other. Such investment actually lies at the foundations of all social bonds. The problem is that this society's members have their egos invested in identification with the wrong kind of external other. Mabuse is a man of disguises who is capable of exceptional trans- formation and mutation. In a situation in which the stability of their egos has been made dependent upon the integrity of the subject position of a madman, the characters are drawn into a vertiginous deferral and infinite regress. If their sense of their subject positions is relative to the subject position of Mabuse, nothing is certain when he slipsinto another disguise. No one can ever be sure to be interacting with the authentic personal- ity. Hull errs when he assumes that calling cards stand for anything concrete and be- lieves that the slip of paper with Balling's name and hotel room will lead him to the ac- tual man with whom he had been gambling. These cards, like any identification cards, are nothing more than physical trappings to cover up the fact that there is no identity es- sence to be recognized, inscribed, and relied upon consistently. The disguise, the calling card, and the photograph are all representa- tions passing themselves off as the "real" thing-a tangible identity.

The irony of the situation is that Mabuse reenacts what everyone else in the film is al- ready doing all the time-only he does it wit- tingly and dramatically. He wears a mask to go out and adjusts his self-presentation ac- cordingtothe circumstances in ordertomaximize his personal satisfaction. The film high- lights this irony by showing the transforma- tions undergone by Proprietor Schramm over the years prior to the moment of his in- troduction: from street vendor, to bureau- crat during the war, to club owneriMafioso in the 1920s. Schramm is praised tongue-in- cheek for his entrepreneurial talent and his chameleon-like ability to adjust to the times: "Handwerk hat goldenen Boden."

But when Mabuse plays his role, he dou- bles the stakes: he plays the role of playing a role. His existence exposes the fetish nature of self-presentation in his culture's attempts to disavow the lack of an identity essence. He deliberately creates situations of misrecog- nition, such as in his first direct encounter with Hull at the Folie Berg6res. Disguised as Hugo Balling, he commands the young man, "Sie kennen mich nicht?!" "Doch! Sie ken- nen mich, Herr Hull!" Mabuse thrives on an exaggerated version of the psychological misrecognition inherent in any encounter between two individuals. This exaggeration throws the entire economy of identity into flux because it calls attention to itself and ex- poses the social system of identity determi- nation and recognition for what it is: a per- formance of masquerade.

Mabuse inflates the number of potential identifications any individual is capable of without regard for some stable concrete value that the others in his society count on for their sense of grounding. The culture struggling to maintain its dominance in this film--the culture of von Wenk and his po- lice--requires that the society identlfy with someone and something that still claims sta- bility and totality Von Wenk nobly demon- strates his fitness to represent the cultural ideal in which the collective identity should be invested when he faces Mabuse in a game of cards. Disguised as an avid gambler, the detective resists the madman's attempts to hypnotize him,remaining fdy entrenched in the assertion that he, von Wenk, is beyond such persuasion. When Mabuse says "Sie nehmen!" he fails because he hails the wrong "Sie." He attempts to influence the man whose exterior trappings he sees; that man is not the man present in mind. Like Mabuse, von Wenk mimics the perfonnativity of cul- ture, deliberately and consciously assuming a role. His resistance to Mabuse's power lies in his ironic return of Mabuse's own type of deceit, just as Mabuse's resistance to cul- ture's forces of detection and apprehension have been based in his ironic mimicry of ev- eryday masquerade. Against Mabuse, von Wenk's mimicry is indeed a strategy of dis- sent, but within the larger culture, it is a strategy of power and knowledge acquisi- tion. He co-opts Mabuse's alterity and repos- sesses it for disciplinary purposes. Like the legendary Detective Dupin in Poe's "The Purloined Letter," this expert on crime has learned to inhabit the psyche of lus criminal, for he has perfected the crime of inhabiting that of his victim. Instead of borrowing the perspective of an Other in order to gain criti- cal distance and foreground the presence of performance in all of society, the players in this drama appropriate that perspective in order to obliterate others' access to it.

The Camera Eye

Yet the challenge of difference and multi- plicity posed by the master criminal never seems to be fully overcome. Von Wenk's cul- turally authoritative response to the threat posed by the absence of a singular identity is to conclude that society suffers from an un- necessary fragmentation and lack of coher- ence that must be mended. But the film itself offers the spectator the possibility of partici- patingin an alternative experience of hetero- geneity and diversity, where more than one way of seeing, more than one identification can occur at a time. This opportunity is afforded the spectator by virtue of the unique nature of the cinematic image, its depiction of human subjects and the audience identifi- cations brought about through it. Christian Metz's classic discussion of cinematic identi- fication describes the existence of a psycho- logical double optic involved in watching a film (Metz 42-57). The spectator becomes engaged in a primary identification with the gaze of the omnipresent apparatus as well as in a secondary identification with the look of a character within the diegesis. The appara- tus position is associated with a delusory sense of mastery and knowledge; through the camera eye, we can see and go where even the characters in the diegesis may not; we can watch from impossible angles and voyeuristically observe without being caught. Secondary identification allows us to seem- ingly recognize ourselves in a character-im- age on the screen and to comfortably observe the world of the diegesis from what seem to be the parameters of that body image.

Metz's vocabulary allows us to see how Lang's film plays deliberately with the rami- fications of the assumption of the gaze and look within a film and the potential uses and abuses of the power potentially inherent (or lacking) in them.5 Mabuse has the privrlege of enunciating the other characters in the film where one would normally expect that it is the camera that holds the unique capacity to enunciate without being enunciated. Through hypnosis and seduction, Mabuse interpellates and determines the desires and actions of those around him. His gaze, like that of the camera, has transcendental and omnipotent qualities unavailable to the oth- er characters. Unlike the camera's, however, his look is not invisibleattention is called directly to it through numerous shot-coun- ter-shots, mattes, irises, and close-ups of his face literally filling the screen. As spectators we are most aware of seeing the diegetic world through his eyes. Even when point- of-view shots originate in a character, the sense is that these looks canbe traced back to the domineering gaze of Mabuse. All the characters he has interpellated have been possessed by the force of his gaze and have internalized his desires. Ultimately their eyes are no longer really their own- the pos- sessed share their looks with their possessor.

As spectators we revel in the position of privilege and power granted us by our visual connection to the mastermind. The conjunc- tion of the apparatus with his gaze provides the prosthesis that returns the quality of mastery to our faculty of vision. We feel un- fettered and freed from the influence of von Wenk's authority By identifying with the camera that enunciates the detective and the madman who eludes him, we have the illusion of being an independent subject of enunciation. We cannot help but root for the anti-hero because our freedom from society's determining order depends on his mobility.

The implications of this identification are, however, grave and murderous, despite the apparent thrill of liberation. By identifyingwith Mabuse, we become like the charac- ters in the film--our subjectivites are colo- nized. The unnerving series of sinister iris point-of-view shots that follow the dissolve association between the portrait of the devil and Mabuse at the Tolds' party make us un- easy. The cost of the initially appealing sub- ject transformation is high. The fear ofbeing influenced against our will grows, and the threat to the stability of the masculine sub- ject position raises the stakes to another level.AU of this leaves room in this fdm for a conflicting sympathy with von Wenk be- cause his place in the story is the safe place for the culture. If the apparatus could be re- possessed from Mabuse and reunited with von Wenk's look, at least there would be sta- bility and the sense that we have consciously and willingly identified with a legitimate so- cial standard, still grounded in an identifi- ably male subject position.

Ultimately the film works against this willing self-sacrifice in a singular identifica- tion. Its close offers an especially potent chal- lenge to this limited view of cinematic identi- fication. As the narrative reaches its end- point, Mabuse sits in his basement, crazed by hallucinations. Forced to face each of his vic- tims, to acknowledge thevalidity ofeach sub- ject he murderously manipulates, the anti- hero's reign of mastery is interrupted. As Tom Gunning describes the scene, "Allthese things now confront him and declare their independence from him. He is their subject now, no longer their enunciator" (Gunning 116). Even his female victims and the men he has "feminized" return the gaze to reverse the circuit of vision and power. What is more, we no longer see through his eyes in neat shot-counter-shot and iris point-of-view arrangements. Present of mind and present in space during his breakdown, somehow we have broken free of him.The camera (and we, through it) approaches him from theout- side.

Although von Wenk has arrived on the scene at the film's close to arrest Mabuse and take him off to the appropriate institution, the viewer is left doubting that the gaze is really returned to its "legally rightful own- er." Mabuse's body has been arrested, but his mind remains beyond the range of the law's surveillance. The impetus to restore social order by definitively identlfylng and appre- hending the criminal and reasserting the male-centered, heterosexual gender econ- omy is left utterly unfulfied. Mabuse re- mains slippery and uncontained, perhaps even more so than before, since he has lost control over mental and psychic faculties. The indeterminacy of gender and desire that he introduced but kept strictly under his own control have been unleashed. The end- ing of Lang's first two-part Mabuse film is left open enough that several sequels, in sev- eral languages, were to follow, welcomed by audiences anxious to be told how it all works out "in the end."

The Audience Enjoys Itself

Anxious does not mean displeased, how- ever. Logic tells us that audiences would not have made it a point to see the sequels if the experience of the film had not been one of pleasure. They even returned to the original between installments in the sequel series, as indicated by an announcement in the LichtBild-Buhne of April 28,1923, which report- ed on the second release of Dr:Mabuse, der Spieler at the U.T. Kurfirstendamm exactly one year after its premiere. The positive re- sponses to the first installment indicate that spectators were enjoying watching the ad- venture of Dr:Mabuse. And so we return again to the question with which I opened this discussion: if the times were so bad and the Dr:Mabuse films reflected this negative state of &airs so reliably, why would audi- ences enjoy the films and why would critics be so quick to celebrate that reflection?

It will be helpful in this case to try to un- derstand the factor of spectator enjoyment that Linda Williams points to in her recent study of audience responses to Alfred Hitch- cock's Psycho."n order to distingush this type of spectator enjoyment from the psy- choanalytic concept of visual pleasure, Wil- liams relies on a more popular vocabulary, and describes it simply as fin.' She argues in the case of Psycho that taking a psycho- analytical approach to this film can help us understand the general structure of the spectatorship, but will only carry us so far when inquiring into audience pleasure (35 1). The same can be said ofDr: Mabuse, whch, like Psycho, plays with and against what by 1922 was developing into the classical sys- tem of suture, whereby coherent forms of meaning and unified subject positions are upheld (Elsaesser 148, 160, 182). The film foregrounds-and rattles-the chains of identification by allowing the spectator to identlfy with one character's desires, then layering these desires with those of another character, then abruptly cutting off access to certain characters by Wng them off, all the while making the viewer dependent upon the twisted and psychotic will of Mabuse. The viewer is alternately inscribed as victim and victimizer, and the satisfaction of a true victory on the part of a "good guy" is end- lessly deferred. In the terms of psychoana- lytic film criticism, it is distinctly unsettling that the film refuses to offer characters whose psychological identities are discrete and directly accessible. The satisfaction of narra- tive resolution is not granted and the end of the film should be read as a punishment to the spectator for his or her deviant identifi- cation during the course of the narrative.

However, as Williams reminds us, Carol Clover offers another angle from which to approach the question of narrative resolu- tion (or lack thereof). In her study of gender and the horror film, Clover insists that there is more to the dynamic at work in the sub- genre than the punitive thwarting of plea- sure and satisfaction (203-17). While de- emphasizing the factors of castration and punishment, she develops the insight that horror films involve a form of spectator iden- tification that shifts between victim and vic- timizer and thus engage the viewer in, not just a sadistic, but also a masochistic plea- sure. Theviewer ofthe horror fdm enters the cinema with an open attitude toward the im- ages on the screen; he or she volunteers to be assaulted by the images. Clover locates cru- cial blind spots in theories of spectatorshp such as those formulated by Laura Mulvey and Christian Metz, who describe the pri- macy of a gaze that attempts to master the object of vision and discovers that the horror film privileges a mode of spectatorship that is reactive and introjective. It involves a vi- carious form of pleasure that is terrifying and thus abject. Most important for our pur- poses here, this pleasureiterror combination is also gendered feminine because the willingness to be subjected to the assault of im- ages entails a wihngness to identlfy with a female character that serves as both victim and hero. In Wilhams's words, "this terror is merely the starting point of a roller-coaster ride that careens wildly, between the gen- dered poles of feminine abjection and mascu- line mastery" (359).

Viewed in relation to this description, we can see how Dr: Mabuse takes its spectator on a similar ride. Part of this film's suspense and uncanniness resides in the audience's attraction to the downfall of Cara Carozza and Grafin Told. We are constantly wonder- ing: How will Mabuse bring them down? And at the same time, as detailed above, we are, through the foregrounded chains of identification, aligned with their points of view-both visually and psychologically. This sliding movement of gender and sexual identifications is central to Rhona Beren- stein's study of the horror film, where she, like Clover before her debunks the notion of early horror as the exclusive domain of a sa- distic male subjectivity (Berenstein 235-39). Berenstein's analysis reveals the ads of role play that take place in the development of viewing pleasure, describing the classic hor- ror scenarios in which the abject creature is alternately masked and unmasked, where heroes are feminized and doubled with mon- sters, and where heroines are victimized but at the same time aligned with the monster's potency. If we consider the character of Ma- buse to have functioned in a manner similar to the monster of early horror film, we begin to understand how a process of "spedator- ship as drag" (Berenstein) also occurs in the Lang and von Harbou series.

Like the horror film, this sensation-fdm is driven not only by a series of exciting and shockingevents, but also by a constant series of dislocations between the "normal" and the "perverse" and between masculine and fem- inine subject positions. These dislocations lie behind the viewer's oscdlating experience of desire and dread-and amount to an experi- ence of combined pleasure and terror. By ap- plying Berenstein's comments about classic horror to Dr.Mabuse, we see that:

[Alnother part of the appeal resides in the

on- and off-screen malleability that [it]

celebrates, that is, the invitation to identi-

fy with and desire against everyday modes

of behavior and to ~lav

d with the masks that Western culture asks us to treat as core identities. Amidst signifiers of fear and desire and of loathing and longing, [it] celebrates malleable spectatorial posi- tions, the dissolution of conventional sex and gender categories, the fragility of the heterosexual couple and the family, and the precariousness of Western patriarchal institutions and values. (262)

Like the classic horror film, Dr.Mabuse en- courages "viewers to witness an alterna- tive world: one in which they can oscillate between sadism and masochism, experi- ence the transgressive pleasures of drag, and still wear their street clothes" (Beren- stein 262). Following Berenstein, I would postulate that there is a particular plea- sure involved in the subtle twisting of the gender norms as it occurs in the Dr.Mabuse series. It offers a similar thrill through the active destabilization of gender and sexual identity. The oscillation between the fear of destabilization and the hope for the liberation it offers amounts to a cine- matic pleasure ride.

Describing the film as a "pleasure ride" is not just clever phrasing, as we see by turning back to Linda Williams and her discussion of Psycho. Inspired by the work of scholars of early cinema culture who have pointed to parallels between the sensate experiences of modern life (including the artificial ones cre- ated in amusement parks capitalizing on the sensational quality of modern living) and the often destabilizing, shock effects of early cin- ema (Charney and Schwartz 1-72), Williams compares the experience of watching Psycho with that of riding one of the elaborate fan- tasy rides present in modern-day theme parks. Taking a look back from Williams' portrayal of postmodern forms of amuse- ment and entertainment, we can now see something new in the Dr:Mabuse series. Like some fdms from the preceding period, the Mabuse fdms employ a sensational series of events conveying "moments of height-

ened danger, suspense and as a spectacular visual presentation" (Gunning 88); however, these events are contextu- ahzed in a much more elaborate narrative than was the case in early cinema. To put it in Williams' terms, the ride ths film carries the viewer on takes a form somewhere between that of the jolting, careening early roller coaster and that of the highly illusionist, narrativized rides of today's amusement parks.The fdm is appealing because it offers a "pleasurable destabilization," simulating bodily thrills and visceral pleasures, and taking its viewers on a continuous ride that is periodically punctuated by shocks and abrupt changes in pace and location (Williams 356). Beyond offeringa desirable expe- rience of disorientation and destabilization through its fast-paced, wild events, it also thrills through its portrayal of the active destabilization of gender. In the clutches of a deliberately directed narrative trajectory, the audience takes pleasure in having occa- sion to temporarily lose control, not only of its senses and emotions but also of its gendered identity Wdliams 364).

To Be Continued ...

At the end of Inferno the attempt to pro- duce narrative and visual cohesion and sin- gular identity in the story is unresolved, and we are left with the drama of looking. In the absence of the masterfid looks of Mabuse and von Wenk, we are left to wonder: What is the nature of the viewing position offered to the spectating subject? Does the film estab- lish a totalized, non-gendered, subject vision to serve where the protagonists cannot? The answer would be yes if the apparatus offered such a vision through primary identification (identification with the camera rather than with a character). All other mediation has, after all, been discrehted and we are left in the end with only the apparatus to help us see. In this case we expect that the apparatus could assert its will to visual mastery of all things diegetic, simultaneously confirming and affirming the viewer's knowledge by im- plying, "Yes. That is Mabuse and here we have hlm under our lens; we see him, recog- nize him and apprehend him." Where von Wenk falters, it could stand in for the law by authoritatively interpellating the spectator along with the objects of its view.

But as a whole, this film is replete with formal elements that have disallowed any sense of totahty and security in the moments where primary identification is dominant (Elsaesser 155-82). From beginning to end, the editing is fast, with little cutting on movement. The close-ups are tight and dis- secting. The overall effect-from the initial fragmenting depiction of Cara on the show stage to Mabuse trapped in his cellar-is one of hsmemberment and incomplete rejoin- ing. These formal qualities compound the fad that the multiplicity and mobility of looks in the narrative process allow for si- multaneous multiple identifications.

Any attempt to state concretely whose identity is whose, to define the subjects' bor- ders, is utterly complicated. More specifi- cally, the grounding of any subject position at either of the poles of the gender binary has been rendered impossible. In the final mo- ments of the narrative, as the apparatus of- fers the spectator images of Mabuse's hallu- cinations, the camera placement, editing, and special effects discredit the sense that we are seeing anything at all real. Once the man loses hs mind, the mind that has had so much control over the events prior, the ques- tion is raised as to whether apprehending this body would actually entail the appre- hension of the inhvidual responsible for the crimes (Elsaesser 180).

As a story of crime and detection, the film foregrounds the function of intersubjective identification in the process of identity deter- mination. The movie camera itself provides a metaphor for the promise of social authority and cultural stability based in masculine subjectivity. However, while the apparatus offers the ability to see, it never grants the power to totahze, contain, and hlly under- stand. Unlike the static photographic frame expected to delimit the individual on the ID card, the filmic image shifts and changes. Dr: Mabuse's characters and addressees are sub- jects-in-process, circulating and shifting, slipping in and out of the bounds of closure that would come to prevail in later classical cinematic styles. The film multiplies poten- tial perspectives and dissects wholes, allow- ing its spectator to understand and experi- ence identity and subjectivity as multiplicity, layering, and performance. While the earli- est critics proclaimed seeing themselves to be part ofDr. Mabuse's appeal, it was just as much the experience of moving beyond themselves that prompted spectators to en- joy themselves while watchng the film.


lThese are the full titles of both installments in the 1922series. Until recently, most scholar- ship on the film has referred to the two parts combined as Dr. Mabuse, derspieler, adesignation that reflected the title on the prints and video tapes in commercial distribution, where the film was edited drastically into one fea- ture-length sequence. Here I will use Dr. Ma- buse to refer to the series of two films, distin- guishing when necessary between the install- ments as Dr. Mabuse, der grope Spieler and Inferno. For clarity's sake I refer to the charac- ter simply as Mabuse. The distribution of a re- stored version of the films through the Munich Film Museum has allowed a view into scenes that were previously excised from most avail- able sources and facilitates a more detailed dis- cussion of the series in its entirety.

2For another perspective on this discrepancy, see Gunning 117-18 and Elsaesser 156.

3This mode of diegetic spectatorship pro- motes a masculine position of voyeuristic plea- sure in the cinematic spectator, which is char- acteristic of the classical film narrative as de- scribed by Laura Mulvey in "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Here I will argue, how- ever, that this notion of spectatorship is insuffi- cient for understanding the modes of vision and audience pleasure at work in Dr. Mabuse.

4The film thus operates according to the same "give a littleltake back a lot" model that charac- terized transformations in the sphere of gender and sexuality in the Weimar Republic. While women, gays, and transgendered individuals did gain more visibility and ostensibly more civil rights during the period, they were also more assiduously studied and disciplined than ever-a trend that later served well the repres- sive politics of the National Socialist regime. Along those lines, the relationship between the film's challenge to the binary heterosexual par- adigm and the sexual politics and practices of the period deserves further elaboration. The writings of Magnus Hirschfeld, Alfred Kind, and Hans Ostwald, for example, offer informa- tive views into places where Weimar discourses of gender and sexuality overlap with the cine- matic rendering of gender dynamics in this se- ries.

5Because of this quality, this film provides additional substantiation for Anne Friedberg's argument that the categories of modern and postmodern are not applicable to cinema in the same way they are to other types of aesthetic production. In Friedberg's view, cinema has al- ways displayed the characteristics that we now identify as postmodern, such as the instrumen- talized acceleration of spatial and temporal fluidities. I would add to this point that a fluid- ity of identity has also always been part of the work of the cinematic apparatus and that this work is foregrounded in Dr. Mabuse, which we Fall 2003

might then want to call a proto-postmodern film. See Friedberg 179.


6Formal comparisons and a survey of the his- torical connections between the work of Lang and Hitchcock would reveal why a study of Psycho provides such a productive starting point for a new perspective on Dr. Mabuse; however, this topiclies beyond the scope of this reading.

7Clover's. Berenstein's. and Williams's theo- rization of'spectatorship and pleasure in the case of the horror film could also be applied to such Weimar horror titles as Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu. Since my primary interest lies in understanding the nature of spectatorship in the first installments of the Dr. Mabuse series, these films will not figure into the current argument.

BReferring specifically to the open-ended, but sequel-directed final scene of the film, Thomas Elsaesser uses language that resonates with Williams's reference to the roller coaster: "With these discontinuities, these sudden breaks, the film literally disappears, its heartbeat coming to a 'stop, so that when starting up again, it can take the viewer in any direction whatsoever, ex- cept that this, too, is a trick the director plays on his viewers. What greater way of being in con- trol than making the audience lose their control, but then to catch them, just as they think they are falling"(l76). Elsaesser argues that the seeming openness of the film is actually a demonstration of Lang's aspirations to and skills at supreme enunciation. I would argue that it is this sleight of the authorial hand that makes possible the "pleasurable destabiliza- tion," although further elaboration on this point would exceed the necessary limits placed on this essay.

Works Cited

Berenstein, Rhona. "Spectatorship as Drag. The Act of Viewing and Classic Horror Cinema." Viewing Positions. Ways of Seeing Film. Ed. Linda Williams. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UF: 1995. 231-69.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Rout- ledge, 1990.

Charney, Leo, and Vanessa Schwartz, eds. Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life. Berkeley: U of California E: 1995.

Clover, Carol. "The Eye of Horror." Viewing Posi- tions: Ways of Seeing Film. Ed. Linda Wil- liams. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UE: 1995. 184-230.

Dr. Mabuse: Part I "Dergro/3e Spieler: Bildnis der Zeit" and Part I1 "Das Inferno: Bildnis der Menschen. " Dir. Fritz Lang. Decla-Bioscop, 1922.

Eisner, Lotte. Fritz Lang. New York: Oxford UE: 1977. Friedberg, Anne. Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern. Berkeley: U of California

E: 1993.

Elsaesser, Thomas. Weimar Cinema and After: Germany's Historical Imaginary. London: Routledge, 2000.

Fuss, Diana. Identification Papers. New York: Routledge, 1995. Gunning, Tom. The Films of Fritz Lang: Alle-

gories of Vision and Modernity. London: BFI Publishing, 2000.

Lang, Fritz. "Kitsch-Sensation-Kultur und Film." Fritz Lang. Die Stimme won Metropo- lis. Ed. Fred Gehler and Ulrich Kasten. Berlin: Henschel, 1990. 202-06.

Metz, Christian. The Imaginary Signifier: Psy- choanalysis and the Cinema. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UE: 1982.

Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Visual and Other Pleasures London: Macrnillan, 1989. 14-26.

"Was die L.B.B. erzd-dt." Licht-Bild-Biihne 16.17 (28 April 1923): 30.

Williams, Linda. "Discipline and Fun: Psycho and Postmodern Cinema." Reinventing Film Studies. Ed. Christine Gledhill and Linda Wil- liams. London: Arnold Publishers, 2000.351-


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