Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Basic info:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (German: Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari) is a 1920 silent film directed by Robert Wiene from a screenplay by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. It is one of the most influential of German Expressionist films and is often considered one of the greatest horror movies of all time. This movie is cited as having introduced the twist ending in cinema.

My opinion:
First of all I have to mention that this movie can be considered as one of the most influential movies in history, because it is not so hard to notice that it is actually pre-dating other classic movies such as "Nosferatu"  by F.W Murnau and "Metropolis" by Fritz Lang which ones were definitely affected by it. The storyline is simple: "Caligari (Werner Krauss) is a hypnotist, who travels from fair to fair and shows off his attraction: a somnambulist named Cesare (Conrad Veidt) who blindly obeys him. When night falls, Cesare leaves the casket that shelters him for deadly sprees in the sleeping village, but what should be interesting is that you can see clear resemblance between Cesare and Nosferatu - they are both zombie-like creatures sleeping in coffins and killing people. It had to be one of the most terrifying horror movie aspects at that time.

The atmosphere:

According to review  "While the plot may be a bit dry, the set is unlike anything seen by many modern viewers." The set designed and implemented by Hermann Warm, Walter Röhrig, and Walter Reimann is a two-dimensional backdrop constructed of paint on flat canvas. Filmed people walking through this strange and expressive world is  quite unusual even nowadays. As if that wasn’t enough, the entire “flashback” set is done in German Expressionist style, with unnatural angles, exaggerated line and an overall trend towards asymmetry. Sometimes the shadows were just painted onto the set. The shadows never fail, never move, giving the impression that the even the town itself has descended into madness.. The effect creates an unnatural world, in which city seems to be strange with high chairs, triangular doors opening from odd angles, and buildings just stands ignoring the rules of gravity Everything actually reminds expressive painting "The Scream" by Edward Munch.

The ending::

According to responses in rotten tomatoes page: "The set and creepiness here has never been matched" and the ending just proves it. The page in its review tells us that "it is cleverly manipulative on three levels. First it wins the spectator’s trust through its narrative form by asserting that what’s being shown is reality. While the realization is deceitful, it nevertheless conceals the revealing indices of another truth. The film challenges everything that preceded, ironically duping the spectator as crazy" (an idea of producer Erich Pommer). The film in a final, key scene brings us to the truth and it just established, showing that madness is sometimes closer to reality than we would think about it sometimes.

Last notice would be that in the first scene main character was talking to a stranger in a realistic atmosphere, when it blurs to the story that he was telling the world becomes similar to expressionistic painting and in the end everything becomes normal again. This thing should probably could show us the barrier between insanity illusions and reality of the story.

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