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Fritz Lang: inspiration of Hergé?

#1 · Posted: 16 Mar 2006 17:13
Dear Tintinologists,
This is my first post here. I have registered a long time ago, and I've been searching the forums to check what has already been posted in the past. I think what I am posting now is an original thread, but, please, excuse me if it has been brought up before.

In the forum I've seen several threads regarding inspirations of Hergé, or Hergé's sources of information, or fascination about occult and so on. I think I might have a general answer for all these kind of questions: Fritz Lang and his films.

I think there are a lot of striking similarities between Lang's cinema and Hergé's comics that just can't pass unnoticed. I was rather surprised that Farr only referenced Lang for the style of one picture in the Soviet's adventure.

So let me list some of these similiarities:

1. Check the Moon adventures and Lang's film Frau im Mond. You'll see that they really resemble each other, both in structure and in details.

In fact, Frau im Mond consists of two parts, the first with a spy feel and the second with a journey to the Moon itself. I remember when I first saw the film I could swear that Hergé just copied it.

There are of course differences, but you can feel the inspiration. Lang, like Hergé, did a lot of research and he used experts as consultants about the technical aspects of the film. In the end, he created a rocket that looks very much like the one in Tintin, and all the details of the trip are almost the same.

If I remember correctly, there were some stowaways in the rocket in Frau im Mond, so there wasn't enough oxygen for the journey back, like Tintin.

2. The train sequence in Prisoners of the Sun comes directly from the train sequence in Lang's Spione.

The hero stays in the last car of the train, no other passenger is there and the villains separate it from the rest of the train and the difference is that another train runs into it, istead of it being de-railed.

3. The performances by magicians in The Seven Crystal Balls and Alph-Art are strongly reminiscent of equivalent scenes in Dr Mabuse.

4. Mitsuhirato's hara kiri, although a cliche, can be attributed to Dr Matsumoto's hara kiri in Spione, or even to the film Harakiri by Lang. I admit that this is a little far fetched.

5. Opium dens have been used in Lang's films (Spinnen, Spione), in the same way it is used in Blue Lotus.

6. In Spinnen, Kay Hogh, the hero, discovers a contemporary Inca city, in the same way Tintin does in Prisoners.

7. The whole atmosphere of the first Tintin stories (from Cigars to Golden Claws) very much reminds me of Lang's early adventurous films - although this of course was a trend of the era.

Occultism and exotic adventures were very popular, as a result of many contemporary events, like the advent of psychology and psychoanalysis, the improvements in transportation which brought to light different exotic civilisations and the First World War, which ended with thousands of victims left unburied, which led to an increase in occultism and subsequently to expressionism.

8. Some of the dream sequences in Tintin, or hallucinations are expressionistic, and resemble equivalent sequences in Spione, or Dr Mabuse and so on. Although Lang didn't do expressionistic films, you can see expressionistic influence, especially style-wise.

9. In Spinnen there is a flash-back sequence, involving pirates and a treasure, much like the one in Unicorn.

There are probably more points, but I am afraid I haven't seen some of the films recently, and I don't have the comic books near me now.

What I would like to ask fellow Tintinologists is: is there any evidence to prove my point? Do you know of any reports about Hergé being a Fritz Lang fan?

I hope you see my points. Is there anybody out there who has seen the films and knows what I am saying?

If not, please see them: even if you don't agree with me, you 'll find they are excellent films. So, in fact, I am just sharing my passion about Lang with people who share my passion for Tintin.
#2 · Posted: 17 Mar 2006 01:27
While the only Fritz Lang movie I've seen is Metropolis I will attempt to give my thoughts.

1. Quite possible Hergé got inspiration from the rocket, but doubtful that he just copied it. He even had a model made up so he could draw the intracices better.

2. Possible, but then again this could just be an exciting scene Hergé compiled in his mind. (When did Lang's movie with this come out?)

3. I don't know.

4. Mitsuhirato's ritual suicide being inspired by Lang? Doubtful. Hara kiri was performed by honourable samurais back in the day. And it's just one of the traits of Mitsuhirato being Japanese and thinking himself 'honourable' enough to take his own life.

5. Opium dens were common in The Blue Lotus era. The connection is flimsy at best.

6. I don't know. It's quite possible. Although Hergé cites some explorer journals and National Geographic as major influences.

7. Possible, but who knows? A lot of that sort of thing was in literature and movies. From Agatha Christie to G.K Chesterton.

8. I don't know. But definetly surreal art was the rage around that time. I think your grasping at straws again.

9. I don't know.

As you see I can't help much or whatever but I think it's more that Tintin is a product of his time and Fritz Lang also happened to be a product of those times.
#3 · Posted: 17 Mar 2006 01:56
I have to agree with your points. I do understand that some of my points are a little far fetched (e.g. the hara kiri). And you are perfectly right about them both being products of their times.

Yet, the most important of my points were about Frau im Mond, Spione and Dr Mabuse.

True, Hergé did have a model of the rocket. What I am saying is that he had probably seen the film, because there are too many similarities to be ignored; I think there was even a scene where some drink becomes a ball, if I remember correctly!

I am afraid I haven't seen it recently, that's why I can't list more similarities, but I remember when I saw it I was amazed.

I just saw Spione again tonight; the train sequence is not exactly the same but you can see the similarity with Prisoners (the film was released in the late twenties, definitely before Tintin). The same goes for the variety scene in Dr Mabuse. And having contemporary Incas or flashbacks with pirates and treasures?

As you can see, some of my points have to do with specific sequences, whereas some only with the atmosphere. I would never have pointed out the latter, if there weren't the former.

Having said these, don't get me wrong, I highly respect Hergé and I love Tintin; for me it is the ultimate comic, not to be compared with any other!

I am not trying to diminish Hergé, I am just trying to provide some intuiton regarding his sources of inspiration.

I might be wrong; that's why I am asking if there is anyone who could provide me with possible evidence that my points are valid.
#4 · Posted: 17 Mar 2006 02:43
No problem mate. I can see you enjoy Tintin and highly respect Herge's work. It was just a point of interest wasn't it?

Is Fritz Lang's 'M' any good?
Note from Admin: please try to stick to the topic. :)
#5 · Posted: 17 Mar 2006 11:38 · Edited by: tybaltstone
M is indeed fantastic, and has a very high level of story-telling skill - one of my favourites too.

I am a big fan of silent films and 1930s films and also have more than a passing interest in early comic strips too. I often see theories regarding Hergé being inspired by various directors from those eras. I would say he was, purely because film has always had a partial influence on its paper-based cousin, the comic strip. They grew up together, and Hergé started Tintin at a time when film was really coming of age socially.

I don't think Hergé consciously took ideas, or based ideas upon Lang's work. They may well have seeped in subconsciously. As you, pgram and Tintinrulz have already stated, Hergé used many themes that were popular in those times anyway, in both filma nd literatire. I don't think it's surprising that both Hergé and Lang came up with similar space travel stories as they both used expert advice (I haven't seen Frau im Mond... sounds good!).

Whatever, I think your points about Lang are good, and the use of similar themes and usage of those themes is very interesting. I sometimes think Winsor McCay and Georges Méliès have a lot in common, as did Will Eisner and Orson Welles (or perhaps the more pulpy 40s directors).
#6 · Posted: 17 Mar 2006 12:19
Thanks for replying Tybaltstone. I just found out about your making The Rainbow Orchid, and I'll probably have a lot to discuss about it in the future. Good work, I have been enjoying it for some time now.

Back to the subject, could you be a little more specific when you say about theories regarding Hergé being inspired by various directors?

I love silent films as well, and my feeling is that Lang is the equivalent of Hergé for cinema: they both seem to have determined the whole language of moviemaking and comic-book-making. In fact, Lang's early cinema is comic-like and Hergé's comics are definitely movie-like.

But if you can find a copy of Frau im Mond, I think you'll find that it does resemble the Moon adventures. In my first post, I used the word "copied". I admit this might be unfair; geniuses don't copy, they get inspired. And Hergé was a genuine genius. But, still, the resemblance is too obvious to ignore...
#7 · Posted: 17 Mar 2006 15:01
I'm very interested in finding Frau im Mond, thanks, I'll keep an eye out.

As regards films and comics, and especially the silent films...
In the early days, film-makers placed more emphasis on the 'show, don't tell' aspect of story-telling (they had to, they had no audible dialogue), which is always more interesting for an audience (not to say there haven't been some very well written narrations in film - when writing's good - it's good!). Good comics (and plays too, for that matter) rely on very similar techniques. Due to constraints of time and space, it is a better way of telling the story, but requires more skill.

If you take something like Metropolis, for example, you can almost isolate the frames and put the title cards in as speech bubbles, and it would work really well as a comic strip. Even the melodramatic acting/body language is quite comic-strip-like as it has to emphasise the visual to convey meaning.

Modern films are more subtle, but earlier films were more aware of the new language of film, and were adventurous and conscious of what they did. Of course there is some wonderfully subtle acting in older films that show-don't-tell too (M, A Woman of Paris etc..)

You can see artists like Hergé and McCay doing the same thing. They seem to be constantly asking themselves 'what's they best way I can tell this part of the story?', fully aware that their tools are the visual image and the spoken word (whether that be sound, title card or speech bubble).

That's my (rambling) view, anyway.
Harrock n roll
#8 · Posted: 18 Mar 2006 01:10
Very intriguing, thanks for the post pgram!

I've seen M and Metropolis but not any of the other films you mention.

There's been plenty of comparison between Hergé and Jules Verne over the years, but I'm not aware that Fritz Lang's films have ever been put forward as an inspiration.

The Jules Verne connections are also just as compelling: there are drinks rolling into a ball in the book From the Earth to the Moon and many other such “coincidences” (see this link for more). Perhaps, as mentioned above, they are just coincidences; an unavoidable consequence of writing ideas for adventure stories.

It's often been said that Hergé was quite open about his sources: Alfred Hitchcock's version of The 39 Steps has been touted on these forums as an influence on The Black Island, and I think The Broken Ear has been compared to The Maltese Falcon (and film noir generally).

And I go along with what tybaltsone said about the nature of film and comic strip. I think most comic books are like watching a film with some frames left out.

Hergé seems to have been very influenced by film generally and employed the same devices; ‘cuts’ to build up suspense, the ‘suggestion’ of violence, long distance shots, close ups, etc. Perhaps he was a Fritz Lang fan?
#9 · Posted: 22 Mar 2006 12:11
I agree with all your points, Harrock n roll. Jules Verne is a common denominator (an obvious one), not just for Hergé and Lang, but probably most of the adventure story tellers of that era (and probably the next ones, as well).

There is also another characteristic of Hergé's work I am particularly intrigued by: it is the simplicity and "naivity" of the storytelling in the first adventures (from Cigars to Shooting Star). Even the previous ones (Soviets, Congo, America) are very easy to read and absolutely enjoyable. You can sense the light-heartedness of the creator when he was making them. This is equally true in Lang's first adventurous films (Spinnen, Harakiri etc). This doesn't prove anything, but, since the feeling is the same, they both seem to share the same part of my memory.

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