While the exact origins of film noir are impossible to pinpoint, no director worked within the genre more consistently or more brilliantly than Fritz Lang. Bringing to the screen an obsessive and fatalistic world populated by a rogues' gallery of strange and twisted characters, Lang staked out a uniquely hostile corner of the cinematic universe; despair, isolation, helplessness -- all found refuge in the shadows of his work. A product of German Expressionist thought, he explored humanity at its lowest ebb, with a distinctively rich and bold visual sensibility which virtually defined film noir long before the term was even coined.
Born Friedrich Christian Anton Lang in Vienna, Austria, on December 5, 1890, he initially studied to become an artist and architect, later serving in the Austrian army during World War I and earning an honorable discharge after being wounded four times. He first entered the German film industry as a writer, penning a series of horror movies and thrillers beginning with 1917's Hilde Warren Und Der Tod. In 1919, he and director Robert Wiene teamed on the script of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and although Lang exited in the pre-production stages to begin work on another project, his major contribution to the story -- a framing device ultimately revealing the story line to have been a dream -- went on to rank among the most imitated structural techniques in history.