Robert Wiene's 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' (1920)
Robert Wiene's 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' (1920 ) is a German silent film. The film is said to be one of the classic forms of German Expressionism in Cinema. The films settings and surroundings seem to be very daunting and off putting as the entire set seems to be disfigured as if the film is set in a different reality, were all is not what it seems.
Roger Ebert describes the set " The first thing everyone notices and best remembers about "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920) is the film's bizarre look. The actors inhabit a jagged landscape of sharp angles and tilted walls and windows, staircases climbing crazy diagonals, trees with spiky leaves, grass that looks like knives."
Fig 1. still of the set
During the film the camera is always set in the same position, which is straight, this makes the film become more of a stage like feel and so with the over exaggerated acting it seems to be more of a performance than a film.
Fig 2. Cesare
Fig 3. Dr. Caligari
This seemed to give the storyline a dull tone at first, although this did not matter as viewers were more taken by the over exaggerated acting and set designs.
However near the end of the film there is a huge plot twist, which tells us that the entire film up to a point had been the imagination of a mad man ( the main character ) this could explain why the set design seemed to be disfigured and disturbing as who knows what a mad mans mind could look like, by giving the viewers this interpretation it shows that this world is twisted and disturbed by reality its self and reflects the basic principles of a mad persons persona.
(A less positive review ) this review is talking about the storyline of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Julia Merriam "Overall, the plot seems almost stagnant, as if it has nothing new to offer. It seems obvious from early in the film that Caligari is controlling Cesare in order to commit these murders. It’s hardly a surprise when Cesare attacks Jane, the only pretty woman on the screen available for damsel-in-distress duty, and the shocking twist ending is so predictable you’re almost surprised they actually follow through with it. However, while Caligari may seem mundane, it’s imperative that we remember this was made in 1919."
Merrick Doll "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has become synonymous with cinematic expressionism. The visuals in the film pay homage to the expressionism in painting as practiced in the 1900s and 1910s (Reimer 71). Reality is reproduced as if it were reflected in a fun house mirror. The distortions, however, do not obscure the objects but instead render them in distorted shapes. Elongated shadows are painted onto set walls, and the streets wind crookedly past houses that are equally crooked. "
Roger Ebert review: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari-1920
Julia Merriam review: http://classic-horror.com/reviews/cabinet_of_dr_caligari_1920
Merrick Doll: http://modernism.research.yale.edu/wiki/index.php/The_Cabinet_of_Dr._Caligari
Figures 1 and 2 : http://theredlist.com/wiki-2-20-777-778-view-1900-1920-profile-1919-bthe-cabinet-of-dr-caligari-b.html
Figure 3: http://www.davidjrodger.com