Friday, March 16, 2012

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. A-

I find it difficult to talk about a movie like this in terms of liking it or disliking it. Subjectivity simply does not come into play. People watch movies because they like them, so almost no one would watch The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari without liking film, even in the most mindless, escapist sense. Thus, no rational being could call this a bad movie. It simply is, existing as an historical artifact that set the course for all sorts of great horror and science fiction films. Could the movie be better? Of course it could, but that's not the point. Here's a film that isn't hugely entertaining and one that for the modern audience is pretty obvious in its plot. But there's a great deal to appreciate about it aesthetically, particularly in the set design. I believe the strange, curvaceous backgrounds were paintings, really German Expressionism at its best. There's hardly a single right angle in any frame, except for the screen itself. This warped sense of reality was a representation of moral decline in Germany, the warped minds of officials that lead to nazism. So this film, both in its plot and its themes, shares a lot in common with The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. My advice for viewing it, particularly for inexperienced viewers, is to see it right away, and then move on to films like Metropolis, Nosferatu, M, and Mabuse. There's nothing terribly confusing or profound about Caligari. It's also short, so it makes for easy viewing. Once you've seen it, then you'll be more prepared for the German Expressionism that follows and also more appreciative of it.

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