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The fact that the film was stylistically ‘different’ may have helped it to receive a distribution outside of Germany, and in the process may have assisted other German films from the period to access outside markets. In theatre, the effort was to use stylised staging and symbolic lighting effects to increase the emotional impact of the work on the audience. analysis. An Online Publication about Architecture and Film. These emotions were visually translated onto the screen using deliberately exaggerated sets and dramatic lighting, emphasizing the fear and horror that encapsulated the narrative. Repeated use is also made of the penetrating, staring eyes of both actors. The sharp patterns on the floors – mainly in the asylum at the end of the film – are an indication of the fractured narrative storylines in the film. In his story, he discusses Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss), a man that exhibits a somnambulist, Cesare (Conrad Veidt), whom the doctor stores in a coffin-like cabinet and controls hypnotically. Made at an early point in film history Caligari can be seen as an attempt to release mainstream cinema from any need to be involved in the straightforward recreation of reality. Once we have taken in the dark aspects of Caligari we can no longer avoid seeing the simple ‘cabinet’ of the title as in fact a threatening, if not frightening, image of a coffin, and this may be particularly so if we are aware of the way in which this same image is also used and re-used in Nosferatu. If we do take Francis as the hero and see the close-up of the director’s face towards the end as the triumph of evil, then the film as a story has not performed its ritualistic taming of the horrors of the world, the restoration of the world as a place of safety has not been achieved. Francis has become alienated from reality and escapes the truth and the burden of his guilt as he slips into his fantasies. Cesare, we might note, is not only put into a state where he will not question orders but is also trained to kill to order. An Architectural Analysis of the Film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), directed by Robert Wiene and starring Werner Krauss and Conrad Veidt. The awakening scene in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is filmed in a theatrical manner, where the set is on a stage, with distorted curtains and … Expressionism aimed to give a subjective view of the world, expressing emotions and feelings rather than presenting an objective view of reality. The shape and form of Dr. Caligari’s house essentially communicates the perverse nature of his being. But this is neither a film review nor a film The space we analyzed in our diagram is the most private of spaces, Dr. Caligari’s house, in a scene where Francis and the doctor visit his house and demand that he wakes Cesare up. The dark cynicism of the new phase of German Expressionism in art that began after the First World War, Die Neue Sachlichkeit (The New Objectivity), and can be seen in the work of Otto Dix and George Grosz, might also be relevant here. Undeniably, ideas of death and the bringing of death are at the heart of this film as they are at the centre of other films from the period in Germany, such as Nosferatu – Eine Symphonie des Grauens/Nosferatu, the Vampire (F. W. Murnau, 1922). And does the asylum then become a metaphor for the world at large? Caligari was evil incarnate and authority was duplicitous, manipulative and, ultimately, murderous. What Francis recalls the death of his close friend, Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski) and believes Cesare murdered him under Dr. Caligari’s control. Watching The Cabinet of Dr Caligari the audience, confined in the world of someone classified as insane, sees what the madman sees: distorted perspectives, eerie lights and shadows, an angular world of fears and apprehension. Does that mean we too are an inmate of this madhouse? These films focus on a reality that has been invaded and plagued by the irrational and cynical thoughts of its characters, and consequently, the sets in these films resemble their distress. The final scene of the film reveals that Dr. Caligari isn’t a murder, but rather a doctor in an asylum where Francis is a patient. We open with Francis about to tell his story to an inmate in an asylum and close with him still confined within the asylum surrounded by characters resembling figures from his dark imaginings. The whole town seems about to fall in on itself and engulf the residents.1. Interestingly, the stylistic use of visual distortions continues into the final scenes within the asylum. The floors are always slanted, the people are either walking up or down but never just straight. The hallways, intersections, and buildings in the film are all artificial and unnatural. 5. In our research, we noticed that the interior and exterior shots of his house don’t match. Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) begins with Francis (Friedrich Fehér) recounting a horrific event. In From Caligari to Hitler, the film critic Siegfried Kracauer4 suggested films from this period had been able to project forward from the contemporary state of Germany in the 1920s to foretell something of the monstrous nature of events that would unfold in the 1930s and early 1940s. It may be that the framing story, that makes the whole story seem to emerge out of the mind of a patient in an asylum, was only added when the film was in production.2 This makes the film ‘safe’. 1. Through the theatrical design set, Robert Wiene builds tension and drama to the scene and draws the views attention to the constructed nature of the film. Filmed in 1920, ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ is a German silent horror film, which tells the story of Dr Caligari and his silent somnambulist Cesare, whom Caligari stores in a coffin-like cabinet and displays as an attraction at the Holstenwall Carnival. These films conveyed inner, subjective emotions and experiences through external, objective means. is the content of a film? The Expressionist movement had an impact in particular on art and the theatre in Europe and perhaps especially in Germany during the early twentieth century. Finally, in a twist, the extended flashback ends and we find Francis is a patient in an asylum run by a doctor who looks like Caligari. But Cesare is overcome by her beauty and carries her off pursued by the people of the town. F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) and The Last Laugh (1924) and Fritz Lang’s M (1931) are films whose worlds are consumed with fear and corruption. The filmmakers are, therefore, both questioning the nature of reality and through example suggesting film is a medium that can do things other than simply offering the photographic representation of life. © 2013 Interiors (Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian). Frustratingly for Francis, if we take this viewpoint he alone knows who is responsible for the murders taking place in the world but is powerless to expose the villain; and, disturbingly for us as an audience, the character with the role of hero is unable to defeat evil and restore order. Holstenwall is a bizarre, nightmare-like place, filled with jagged roads, buildings with pointed rooftops, misshapen windows and doors, and drapes that appear to hang above characters as barely concealed threats. (That Is) All “Expressionist” films (circa 1920-27) incorporate some characteristics of Wiene’s film Film style refers to the technical practices employed within filmmaking, this includes the use of cinematography, mise-en-scene, dialogue, editing and narrative. Veidt has a tall, thin, angular body and moves slowly, almost gliding along the walls, while Krauss is hunched and moves in short, sharp steps accentuated by the use of a cane. Twisted shapes, sharp angles, and a conscious avoiding of verticals and horizontals characterise both the exterior and interior sets. Stephen Brockman, A Critical History of German Film, Rochester, NY, Camden House, 2010, pp. Eventually, demand for the film was such that the French government lifted its ban and Caligari opened in France in 1922. Expressionist sets are employed in order to convey the asylum patient’s thoughts, intensify the emotions of the characters, and emphasise potential psychological depths behind the action. We too are in the asylum where we have been listening to a story told by an inmate. Understanding the changes in film style is crucial to examining film in a historical, political and cultural context. Perhaps more obviously, it is important to remember that when The Cabinet of Dr Caligari was made the First World War, and the horror of the trenches on the Western Front and starvation at home, had only just ended; and in a powerfully real sense this recent past was still visibly present on an everyday basis in the shape of the physically and psychologically maimed casualties to be found on the streets of German towns and cities. The diagram highlights these lines and shadows and emphasizes how much more claustrophobic the interior space feels because of them. Interiors is the critically-acclaimed Online Publication about Architecture and Film. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) Director: Robert Wiene (Scene: 00:30:09 - 00:31:49, 00:32:46 - 00:34:16) The expressionistic techniques of German cinema were determined by their historical time period. But it is not just the sets that are painted in the fantastical style of Expressionism, the costumes, furniture, and even the performances of the actors are integrated into the whole. The texture, underscoring of certain words and phrases, and lettering emphasize a schizophrenic state of mind. The width of the house from the exterior appears no more than six feet in length, while the interior space appears slightly wider in size. These films make use of studio sets rather than actual locations, with distorted buildings painted on canvas backdrops in a theatrical manner. In 1919 German filmmakers were inevitably finding it difficult to arrange distribution of their films in some European markets; the First World War had only just ended and both French and British exhibitors were refusing to show German films. The sets in The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari are almost all inside the small town where Francis is from. 5. Furthermore, we are also implicated in the labyrinth of possibilities at an additional level. However, French film enthusiasts, intrigued by its challenging style and content, acquired prints of Caligari and held their own screenings. ), Masterpieces of Modernist Cinema, Bloomington, IN, Indiana University Press, 2006, pp. Francis stands at the center of these lines in the asylum, which are reflective of the various strands of his fantasies. From this perspective the sets are simply used to convey the thoughts of Francis and to lay bare this character’s emotions. Cinematography: Willy Hameister. The narrative of the film, therefore, is an extension of Francis’ fantasies. Country: Germany. He recounts the way in which he and Alan saw Dr Caligari and the somnambulist, Cesare, at a carnival in Holstenwall and how Cesare accurately predicted Alan’s brutal death.
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