Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Cinematic Spaces: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

figure 1: unique cinematography                                             

The cabinet of Dr Caligari is a german expressionist film, released in 1920 and directed by Robert Wiene. Throughout the film are very unusual yet very individual set designs, which set it apart from other films of its time. The set design of painted canvas showing warped perspectives, slanted roads and “unexpected curves and sudden ups and down” can be seen as a metaphor for what is going through the mind of Francis. The sets became “the elaborate invention of a fantastic world seen through the eyes of a madman” (p.20, Eisner)

figure 2: Influential designs 

The Film is known as one of the most inspirational horror movies ever made, influencing many future artists and filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, who's film 'Shutter Island' pays homage to. "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a film that always bore some similarities in my mind to Shutter Island. It’s a film that Marty admires and one of many he would reference throughout shooting."1

figure 3: Caligari shows off his attraction

The movement of the film is quite varied. At times the pacing is very slow, 'deliberately laborious', perhaps annoying the viewer on purpose. Then the momentum picks up 'when the zig zag motifs of the fairground start turning'. (p.17, eisner). 

figure 4: The Ending

The ending is very unique for its time, Ending in a twist. Many horror/suspense films since Caligari have used the same ending, where a world we are seeing on screen is simply in the mind of the character.

"At last I recognize his mania. He believes me to be the mythical Caligari. Astonishing! But I think I know how to cure him now."



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Lotte H. Eisner, 2008. The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cineman and the Influence of Max Reinhardt. 2nd revised edition. 

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