Oct 16, 2008

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is one of the notable masterpieces of German Expressionist cinema. German expressionist painters lent their talents to the design of the film resulting in one of most elaborate and unsettling set designs in cinema history. Designer Hermann Warm also created rigid and distorted set pieces that capture the viewer into a world of dissonant emotion that many individuals might find uncomfortable. Contemporary director Tim Burton owes The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (with other films of the German expressionist era) credit for being a major influence on the "gothic" directors work. I also couldn't help but notice the striking resemblance between Edward Scissorhands and somnambulist Cesare. Of course, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a film worthy of "borrowing" from.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has been noted for displaying the negative emotions of postwar German society. Basically, film theorists (especially Siegfried Kracauer) believed the film showed the "nightmare" that was Germany after the first world war. Although I believe this is true to some extent, the validity of that arguments doesn't change the fact that the film is a masterpiece (as some contemporary film historians are claiming it is not). The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was made at a time when the horror film was still taken serious as a genre. The film is one so strong in the aesthetic department that the viewer can't help but keep their eyes on the distorted image. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is also one of few films that comes close to resembling a nightmare. Historical context does not always make a film notable. The artistry of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari speaks for itself.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has a "twist ending" that does not get old in future viewings. The reason is that The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a film the sets a mood where the film’s story is secondary. Don't get me wrong, the story itself is engulfing and fantastic. You just don't see many films that have as powerful images as those featured in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Film sets nowadays are designed by over glamorized construction workers. The artists of the German expressionist period captured a nations (or at least their own) disturbed psyche via canvas.

The somnambulist featured in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, despite his effeminate nature, makes the ultimate midnight fiend. For Dr. Caligari to unleash this being for a late night killing is more than appropriate. Jason Voorhees is a deformed retard and Leatherface is just a retard. I love me some slasher films, but when I think of a "scary" killer, Cesare comes to mind. Thankfully, although the film is in a state of minor deterioration (sometimes a good thing), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari still haunts us today.

-Ty E


Keith said...

I love this film. I love horror from this era anyway. It's a beautiful film. It has such a haunting quality about it. It does have its scares. It's a powerful movie that really grips the viewer. It does that no matter how many times you see it. It still holds up all these year later. It's a film that I could definitely see "borrowing" from if I was a filmmaker. It would be a huge influence.

Anonymous said...

its quite interesting to realise that a film being 90 years old is equivalent to a painting or a piece of literature being 900 years old.