Film Review: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary (1920)

Fig 1. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari poster
Roberts Wiene's 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' (1920) is a German silent horror film, and said to be classic work of German Expressionist cinema. Fusing carnival spectacle with the paranoia of the psychological thriller (Robinson 2013). The theme concerns a mysterious Dr Caligari who exploits a troubled young man and uses him as an instrument of murder. This film is said to be the landmark of cinematic artistry, with the use of twisted imagery. Till this day its use of imagery still inspires artist and directors alike.

When looking at the design of the film, it has a very strange and unusual look. "The actors inhabit a jagged landscape of sharp angles and tilted walls and windows" (Ebert, 2009). As added by Ebert, the town of Holstenwall has this playful imaginary style, is made up of zig zagging streets and buildings that lean over one another. Jonathon Crow describes scenes as Deep shadows painted onto the walls, and sets filled with twisted architectural impossibilities (Crow, 11.12.14) This theme of disorientation in the film is continued in the performances of the actors,


Fig 2. Scene from The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
The lighting Wiene uses is more or less the same throught the film, and has a very high contract between the light and dark areas. Which create this fear factor as the audience has this natural fear on the unknown.
Depending on what version of the film  the audience is watching, as the film as been revamped several times. The verson of the film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
The tint was actually useful as the audience was able to distinguish whaen night and day was, as this was hard to see due to it being in that genre of black and white films.

Fig 3. Dr Caligari
Another interesting part of the film that Wiene creates is the use of shadows. Wiene using the light to create these big shadows from the actors.  Because this is a silent film the actors would over exaggerate their acting and Wiene used this to his advantage. The actors shadows would create this really creepy and desterbing atmosphere. This would make the audience feel anxious and intimated.


Illustration list:

Figure 1 - The Cabinet of Dr. Calgari (1920) [poster] At: http://www.openculture.com/2013/10/the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari-see-the-restored-version.html (Accessed on 22.09.15)

Figure 2 - The Cabinet of Dr. Calgari (1920) [scene still] At: http://www.popoptiq.com/the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari/ (Accessed on 24.09.15)

Figure 3 - Dr Caligari from The Cabinet of Dr. Calgari (1920) [scene still] At: http://www.bertelsmann.com/news-and-media/news/post-restoration-the-cabinet-of-dr.-caligari-shines-in-digital-cinema-quality.jsp (Accessed on 25.09.15)


Bibliography

Crow, J (11.12.2014) Watch 10 Classic German Expressionist Films: From Fritz Lang’s M to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari At: http://www.openculture.com/2014/12/10-classic-german-expressionist-movies-for-free.html (Accessed on: 20.09.15)

Ebert, R. (2009)  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari-1920 (Accessed on 23.09.15)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) Directed by: Robert Wiene [Film] Germany: No Production  name

Robinson, D (2013) Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari: BFI Film Classic. At:http://shop.bfi.org.uk/world-cinema/german-cinema/das-cabinet-des-dr-caligari-book.html#.VgP_RGVwaHt (Accessed on 23.09.15)

Comments

  1. Hi Hannah!

    You've got your first film review out of the way...well done :)

    You have commented on some of the more striking aspects of this film, so that's a good start...just make sure you proof-read before you post, as you have some anomalies in there. For example, you have a half-finished sentence - 'The verson of the film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari...' is floating with nothing to back it up! Also, make sure that you use speech marks around all of your quotes; a couple have slipped through the net there.

    It might have been good to elaborate a little on the use of the different coloured tints to show time of day etc. You say 'The tint was actually useful as the audience was able to distinguish whaen (sic)night and day was, as this was hard to see due to it being in that genre of black and white films.' Maybe a couple of images showing the different colours would have been useful?

    Looking forward to your next review!

    ReplyDelete

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