Saturday, October 30, 2010

Film Review - The Cabniet of Dr.Caligari


The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari was directed by Robert Wiene in 1920 and become one of the most important films in cinema history. The films story is based around the theme of madness and insane behaviour. The thing that made this film so interesting to watch was the set design itself which adds to the madness theme throughout this film. The shape of the buildings and the odd shape windows "add to the disorientating impression of a world permeated by subconscious terror and mental instability."


It starts with two men sitting on a park bench with the younger of the two men Francis telling the tragic story of his fiancée. The films its self is told like a story and is shown in a flashback of what happened in the past. It all began several years before when Francis and his friend Alan fall in love with the same woman Jane. This is when the film starts to get interesting when they visit a travelling fair and come to meet Dr.Caligari himself with his somnambulist Cesare. Cesare is an unconscious man that dresses in black and is so pale that you know that there is something weird about him. Caligari awakes the Cesare and tells the audience that he has acquired the ability to tell the future. Alain asks the somnambulist how long he has yet to live he replies that he would be dead by the following dawn. His prediction comes true and become the second victim of two murders. Francis along with his fiancée Jane investigates Caligari and Cesare who ends up eventually kidnapping Jane. Caligari orders Cesare to kill Jane but the slave refuses after her beauty captivates him. He carries Jane out of her house leading the townsfolk on a lengthy chase which ends up with Cesare falls to his death during the pursuit. Francis discovers that Caligari is actually the director of the local insane asylum, and with the help of his colleagues discovers the real truth. In the end it is revealed that the flashback is actually a fantasy. He as well as Jane and Cesare are all inmates of the insane asylum and the man he says is Caligari is his asylum doctor. 


The last 20 minutes of the film for me was the best because the film takes this dramatic turn and what happens in the last scene changes the film totally. When I looked into the film a little bit more I found out that Wiene himself requested the twist at the end of the film when we find out the Francis was the one that was insane and not Caligari. "Thus, at a stroke, the meaning of the story is entirely reversed, by the simple device of framing Janowitz and Carl Mayer’s original story within another story which, to all intents and purposes, cancels out any subversive messages".

As soon as Caligari arrives on the screen you straightway know that he is the villain in this film. "Caligari, the easy to spot villain who scurries around in a black cape and top hat like a bulbous".The way that Wiene has used light and darkness, shadows and dramatic music to portray this works so good in this film .That this way of portraying a character as being the evil villain has been used in many other horror films and could even be said to say used in horror films today. To let the viewer know who the villain is and this film does this straightway.



"This movie is an example of German Expressionism which suits it since horror is meant to show our secret fears and focuses on anxiety and dread; emotions that often override our rational judgment." The cabinet of Dr Caligari was the first film to have used the German expressionist style. It gave a new style to cinema with the painting and angular set pieces and use of light and shade.

Personally this film is not one that I would usually watch but I am glad I did because you can see how a set can be created to portray a theme and can make the film even better. "With twist endings, fear of madness as a theme and of course that outlandish design." The film itself is a bit slow to get in but the twist at the end is so wroth the watch.

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