Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Film Review: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The first film from the ‘Worlds Apart’ film programme was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a silent film from 1920  which was directed by Robert Weine.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, such a classic silent film and such and influential one at that as the review from Film4 mentions;

"Pre-dating even early genre landmarks Nosferatu (1922) and Metropolis (1926) by some distance, Robert Wiene's silent film is both influential and one of a kind." 

Most modern day minds see silent films and think 'boring' because of the lack of sound (what would they expect its a *Silent* film, duh) and colour and they can't be blamed as they're constantly influenced by colour and sound in films. But films like this aren't about sound and colour, more what's in them. Take for example the character of Cesare. Most likely if he weren't in the film characters like the 'Thin Man' from Metropolis, whose appearances are similar, would not exist either. So yes this film has been particularly influential and contributed to the films that followed.

The style of the sets are both wonderful and weird which makes for an entertaining and awe inspiring film. Nick Hilditch writing for the BBC says;

"Robert Wiene's sinister 1920 feature "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari" is both visually unique and haunting in its use of the infant medium."

The fact that the film is German Expressionist adds to the wonderfully sinister and creative set designs for the film and it is easy to oversee the crude child-like painting when collective they make a sharp and sinister-ish world to match the genre of the film. But all in all the overall 2D-ness of the set makes the film appear more of a theatrical performance; something that looks better suited for a stage than a lens, flat with little in at all any depth.

And then there is the genre of the film. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a founder of the horror genre and although not full of blood, decapitations and mutilation like we're used to (thank you Saw and others) it makes up for it with its stalk and slash methods. Time Out Film Guide makes reference to the fact that it is;

"Undoubtedly one of the most exciting and inspired horror movies ever made."

The suspense, lack of sound and stalk'n'slash methods all contribute to a fantastic horror that keeps you compelled to watch more. Overall this film was the 'Avatar' of its day and shall remain that way so long as it's remembered.

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