Saturday, October 3, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
not rated

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a German expressionist film about a hypnotist (Dr. Caligari) who visits a town fair and sets up his exhibit of a somnambulist (Cesare).  Dr. Caligari also uses Cesare as a tool for murder.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a masterpiece and I am ashamed to say that this is the first time that I have ever seen it.  I have known about the film and it's importance on cinema for quite some time, and I have known that it is almost literally the definition of mise en scene (seriously...look up the definition of "mise en scene" on Wikipedia and you will see a picture of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari).  However, unlike other movies that I have known about for too long without seeing, this one actually does hold up to its own reputation.

Since it is a silent movie, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari relies heavily on the use of music and scenery to set the stage.  Even without reading the dialogue, the music and the set do such an amazing job at setting the scene that you could probably understand everything that is happening.  The angles and the forced perspective of light and dark make the entire film feel like it is something between a stage production and a fantastical dream.  The distorted perspective in the set disorients as the music plays on themes that evoke strong emotions.  I love that a silent movie from the 1920s can still have a psychological impact on viewers today.  The film had such a far reaching impact that I can even see its influence in The Muppet Christmas Carol during scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Rating and Recommendation.  4.5/5.  There is no question that this film is absolutely a must see, especially for anyone with an interest in film.  There was no gore or any of the tricks used to startle audiences in modern horror, but the setting and the overall tone stay with you long after the film is over.  Like so many other classic horror films, it is the story, the setting, and the power of the mind that gives The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari such a powerful impact.

Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!

- The Gargyle

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