DVD Break: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - (1920) - (DVD) - (B&W/Silent) - (ILL)

After reading a graphic novel adaptation of this recently it spurred me on to wanting to re-watch this movie which I've only ever seen once before, somewhere in my twenties I would think.  I had to place an Inter-Library Loan and received a copy which included three other movies called "cult classics".  At only 52 mins. this is a short movie but certainly a classic.  The story is phenominal and one can only imagine how it thrilled audiences at the time.  There is the creepy aspect of the sideshow somnambulist, the use of this word alone sounds eerie, of course it only means sleepwalker; but in the film it seems to mean someone who sleeps all the time and when awake is still in a sleeping state.  However brief, there is the story of best friends being in love with the same woman, there is an ongoing murder mystery, the mad scientist/doctor is thrown in for good measure and finally when you think it is all over, a twist ending leaves one re-examining what one has just seen.  Brilliant really how so much story has been condensed into actions, body language, facial epressions and occassional snippets of text!  I really love this movie.  The first viewing of Cesare, the somnambulist, is held off as long as possible and is quite a spectacular moment.  It must have been quite frightening to 1920s audiences.  The style of this movie is called German Expressionism.  Now I don't know what that means and I'm not about to look it up but obviously it has to do with the un-realness of the set designs.  Everything is presented on a slant, shadows and trees are painted on the background and some of these turn into doors.  There are only a handful of stages which are re-used over and over again for different scenes, sometimes slightly changed but always recognizable.  There is abstract art painted on backdrops and the whole over all affect is very surreal nd otherworldly.  The only thing I can think to compare it to, is a Salvadore Dali painting without colour.  If you are into dark, gothic stories this is certainly a must see.  I highly enjoy it and it deserves to be on all the "movies you must watch" lists.

Now this DVD also contains Nosferatu, so I plan on watching it next.  I had no intentions, but since it is on the DVD, I might aswell.  I have seen it before around the same time I first watched "Caligari".  I was doing the whole silent movie thing back then :-)


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