Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Cinematic Spaces: Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari - Review

Robert Wiene's "Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari" (1920)
is a German silence movie with his director, having a great influence on German's silent cinema and horror genre throughout ears.

At 71 minutes, Caligari’s story might seem quite plain, comparing to all horror movies being produced these years. It opens with main character Francis (Friedrich Feher) speaking to a stranger, taking the audience back in time to the moment of meeting Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) and his mysterious somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt) with other occuring events. The plot might seem not surprising, predictable even, though back in 1920 it was new, fresh and introduced people with completely new approach to silent cinema.

"While the plot may be a bit dry, the set is unlike anything seen by many modern viewers."
(Julia Merriam, 2008)

Created in the spirit of German expressionist style, the set stands out above any other ever produced. Made by Hermann Warm, Walter Röhrig, and Walter Reimann. The audience is stunned with its two-dimensional backdrop constructed of paint on flat canvas. All surroundings are painted, even shadows on walls, perfectly matching the light sources and unmoving. Characters are being surrounded by bizzare world with deformed furniture and unnatural shapes. All of this give even more looney and mad sense of environemt.

"Cinematically, director Robert Wiene offers one of the first examples of a film narrative where the viewer knows things that the characters in the story do not."
(Dave Taylor, 2011)

In XIX century, plot-twists, mysteries and complexed stories are nothing quite new. Many things have been showed and filmed through out ages, and not much is still able to surprise the audience. Although, in 1920 the plot-twist was something unconventional; it created a whole new genre, giving the backbone of horror movies. Wiene then creates a psychological fantasy, with complexed characters, and also introduces the world with twist ending, the very first in the history of cinema.

"I don't believe the films caused Nazism in Germany, and whether they predicted it depends a great deal on hindsight. What is certain is that the Expressionist horror films created the most durable and bulletproof of genres."
(Roger Ebert, 2009)

Robert Wiene was the director with other writers co-operating. Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer thought that the new medium, movies, could be used to get peoples attention in postwar Germany. Eventually, influenced by their own experiences, they decided to create a horror story which was bought at spot and stated to be made in expressionist style. Caligar's met with many responses and remakes across many years, such as musicals, books, remakes, graphic novels. Many authors and artists have been influenced with this, now icon, of history of cinema. Upton Sinclair wrote "They Call Me Carpenter"
in 1922, a book about people who try to stop others from watching "Caligari". Siegfried Kracauer's "From Caligari to Hitler" (1947) postulates that the film can be considered as an allegory for German social attitudes in the period following World War I. This any many more state the huge value of Robert Wiene's "Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari"
( 1920), Its importance in history of art is undoubtful and one must understand the circumstances of times during which this production was being made.

* Julia Merriam, 2008, online source: http://classic-horror.com/reviews/cabinet_of_dr_caligari_1920
[accessed online on 30 September 2012]
* Dave Taylor, 2011, online source: http://www.daveonfilm.com/review-the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari-1920-10061.html
[accessed online on 30 September 2012]
* Robert Ebert, 2009, online source: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090603/REVIEWS08/906039987/1023
[accessed online on 30 September 2012]

2. Stills:
* Poster: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0010323/
* Still 1: http://anfibiamente.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/das-cabinet-des-dr-caligari-robert.html
* Still 2: http://anfibiamente.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/das-cabinet-des-dr-caligari-robert.html

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