Visions, sets and even words come alive in Lang’s epic, where not even cinema itself escapes scrutiny: An auteur of many fictions, the villain at one point conjures up images that literally spill off the screen into the audience.
Why is Dr. Mabuse such a forward-looking piece of modern cinema? [It's] comparatively realistic, treating its tale of psychological control and villainy with a relatively straightforward visual approach. The editing alternates between master shots and close-ups; rich, contrasty cinematography and highly detailed mise-en-scène lend a solidity to the film’s many environments, even those (such as the dual-level Petit Casino) that verge on the abstraction Lang will explore more fully in later films.
Superimpositions and juxtaposition craft meaning, while Lang readily proves himself the all-time best director of throngs, mobs comprising undulating, reaching arms gesturing together in hive-mind desire.