Saturday, 29 September 2012

Robert Wiene - The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Fig. 1 (Movie Poster)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a narrative film by Robert Wiene, told by a man to his friend, he tells the story about his fiance and a doctor who allegedly causes a series of suspicious murders. It has inspired many writers/directors to make films based on the story with its twists and the set, which is painted canvas backdrops and uses soft, jagged and abstract lines and buildings which add to the horror of the film in the way that the sinister look of the buildings adds to the darkness and coldness of the mood.

The film starts off with two men sitting together talking as a beautiful woman passes by. The first man then explains to the second man about an interesting tale that he and the woman share and the rest of the movie is then portrayed as a series of flashbacks. He goes on to explain that he and his friend Alan were both trying to win the heart of one girl, Jane. They both go to a carnival where they see a show about a "Somnambulist" who can look into anyone's future, Alan proceeds to ask the somnambulist to predict his death to which he is told he will die before dawn the next day. Speech is shown in a simple way of showing cards on the screen in various fonts, and although this is a clever way to show this, sometimes the fonts can be hard to read .

As the film progresses a string of mysterious murders unfolds and as Alan is found brutally stabbed, the villagers become more and more uneasy. This leaves Francis to marry Jane, but as Caligari find out he orders Cesare to murder her, which unfolds his true identity to Francis. However, as this is happening, Cesare is on his way to capture Jane, and as he escapes he is caught and finally dies. Francis then informs the village and they launch an investigation, to which they realize that Caligari is a "copycat killer" who is copying a monk from the 1703 who had a somnambulist who did his bidding. 

The film then takes a turn and shows a greatly emotional scene when Caligari is caught and as he sees Cesare's lifeless body he collapses and mourns for the death of his slave, who he has developed feelings for. The scene then changes to Francis, Jane and Cesare in the same insane asylum with Caligari being the asylum doctor and this opens up to the audience to choose whether it was real or if it was a fantasy. 

Fig. 2 (Film Still)

Weine really utilized the set designs in the film by making it look as if the set was a separate entity that had its own part in the film along with the actors. The out of proportion buildings and darkness between them gave a sense of movement which added to the scariness of the film.

"A case can be made that Caligari was the first true horror film" (Ebert - 2011) Robert Ebert considers Weine to be the true pioneer of the horror genre, this can well be the case as many films, books and music videos have been inspired from it.  Martin Scorsese's  Shutter Island (2010) was loosely inspired by it in the fact that it takes place within an insane asylum and has a similar twist with the main character being insane and the asylum director trying to help. The film has also inspired music videos, for example the Red Hot Chili Peppers used the same set style of abstract lines, dark imagery and cubism for their 2000 music video Otherside.

The inspiration for this film came after the war when Wiene witnessed a shadowed stranger disappear into a bush and a woman's body was found later. The man was later found to be a military psychiatrist who was heavily affected by the war.

"Robert Weine, is seen by many as the genesis of expressionist cinema, which flourished in Germany in the 1920′s, and in turn influenced the stark lighting associated with Hollywood film Noir" (D'Ambra - 2007) Tony D'ambra describes Weine to be the first director who indirectly inspired the works of other genres, mainly horror, expressionism and film noir.

"With a zombie-like killer and twist-in-the-tale..." (Film4 - 2012) This is an interesting quote from a review by Film4. It implies that this is the first film that contains elements of  zombie-like entities, however, the argument can be made that Cesare is more of a slave rather than a zombie, as he is in a hypnotic state, he is more of a soldier.

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D'Ambra -
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  1. Hey Dhuran - is this a work in progress? You've got some odd formating here - for instance, all I can see are a series of white stripes where I think you're intending there to be a quote? If you're still struggling a bit with what we're asking from you in terms of reviews, check out this post from your classmate, Katy:

  2. This is still work in progress, I must have clicked publish instead if save.