Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari (1920)

This film was quite hard for me as I found the music to often be irrelevant to the scene and as there was no speech and the music was so distracting, it was quite an intense watch. Aside from the terrible music, it is obvious that this film was most definitely an inspiration for many films that were to be made after it. You can clearly see a few distinctive things that have been repeated through to modern cinema such as the use of shadows to suggest things and unexpected twists near the end.

 ''With a zombie-like killer and twist-in-the-tale this anticipates everything from psychological thrillers to stalk 'n' slash.'' Film 4 review

The film also had a few influential comedic elements such as when Dr.Caligari (Werner Krauss) was asking to be part of the fair and the guy yells at him to "wait!" then shows close ups of Krauss looking around fidgeting before asking again and being shouted at to ''WAIT!!!''. This is the sort of scene that would typically be in a Ben Stiller /Adam Sandler /Jim Carey movie for example.
But rather obviously, the main attraction is the strange visuals. Often the viewer has no choice as to where they should be looking, due to forced perspectives and close ups. All of the buildings and sets are at odd angles and often seem impossible, especially the paths going off into the distance and the unbalanced buildings and rooms.

"...slathering the screen with forced perspectives and all kinds of bizarre diagonals and slants; there is hardly a right angle to be found in this film." Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid

One of the most interesting sets is the town square. With its lopsided buildings and narrow paths which look awkward and make it hard for people to go about their business without pushing past each other, it creates a very abstract version of a small town. Also, the make up, hair and costumes create an even stronger contrast of black and white that continues through the film. It's almost as if, even in colour, the characters would be wearing blacks and whites.

"Heavy stage mannerisms and makeup underscore the disorienting non-naturalistic backdrops, giving everything a skewed fun-fair-room effect.  Eye-shadowed and powdered pale, faces are lit from below in isolated iris-circles" Donald Levit, RealTalkReviews

This abnormal style is common in the fine art world, but seems to have lost its way throughout the years of film. It was a nice change to the ultra-realistic scenes we are used to seeing nowadays.

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