Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 1920- Review (re-write)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
(Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari)
Director: Robert Wiene, 1920
Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari
Conrad Veidt as Cesare
Friedrich Feher as Francis
Lil Dagover as Jane
Hans Heinrich von Twardowski as Alan
Rudolf Lettinger as Dr. Olsen
I hadn’t read anything about this film before I viewed it so I wasn’t sure what to expect apart from 1hour 11minutes of a 1920 silent movie. The first thought that came to mind after watching it was how much it reminded my of a film I had recently watched called Shutter Island (2010). They both had the same twist at the end.
The basic storyline consists of Francis (Friedrich Feher) sitting on a bench and telling the story of his fiancĂ© Jane (Lil Dagover) and his friend Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski) and how they had once gone to a fair. There was an amusement there of Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) and his amazing somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt) who could predict the future of anybody. Alan’s prophecy was his death before morning.

 This was for-filled. The rest of this flashback spoke of 'Murderous mayhem and pursuit ensued in a cock-eyed artificial landscape of over-sized furniture and ill-formed spiky trees where everything tends towards spirals and spider webs' (Nick Hilditch, http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2001/03/01/cabinet_of_dr_caligari_1920_review.shtml, 1/3/2001). They resolved the killer to be Cesare under the trance of Dr. Caligari filling out his murderous fantasies. 

However, the ending had a twist, it turned out to be Francis having his own fantasy about himself, Jane and Cesare who were all patients in a mental hospital and Dr. Caligari was the chief Dr of the asylum. 

The sets and art design of this film I thought were amazing. I loved the distortion of everything in the image, e.g. the chairs, tables, doors, walls, floors, everything except the actors. My favorite fine artist is Salvador Dali and although this was before Dali it gave me the same mystical satisfaction as looking at one of his paintings. 
I think these distorted sets were a very classy look to emphasis a film about mental illness and flashbacks and a twist in the storyline.

There was a lot of average camera shot use such as long and medium shots, but also to emphasis a particular expression or emotion at a critical moment in the film there was use of the close up. This particular shot was used a lot when Dr. Caligari (in the fantasy) would show people his somnambulist and this would give the feeling of a greasy twisted man obviously doing something evil.

'surrealist cinema begins right here' (James Sanford, http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1003361-cabinet_of_dr_caligari/, 26.7/2002)

This movie has been described as 'a film of delusions and deceptive appearances, about madmen and murder' (Roger Ebert, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090603/REVIEWS08/906039987/1023, 3/6/2009)

1 comment:

  1. Okay Nat :-) This is all good, but I want you to continue to develop a more formal way of expressing your critique; for instance, do we need to be told that you thought the sets 'were amazing' - this is very subjective (personal) in tone. It is far better in the context of critical analysis to avoid expressing 'amazement!' or 'hatred!'. Your role is to remain largely objective - use the quotes etc. of others to introduce strong opinions or personal observations; you're the umpire-come-lawyer in these instances. Again, the point you make about the twist of Shutter Island is great, but do we really need to know that you'd viewed it recently? Keep your reviews content rich and the chit-chat to a minimum. It's a style thing.

    Oh - and integrate your quotes into your argument - don't leave them marooned at the end like orphan voices - use them proactively to keep an idea spinning.