The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)
Just as many Greek Legends, Robert Wiene’s legendary innovation ‘The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari’ is disappearing into the history books as we progress further down the years and yet this masterpiece ‘is arguably the first successful attempt to show the workings of a highly disturbed and fractured mind.’ - Phelim O'Neill. This film has given us countless classic film within the horror genre. 'Saw',' Silence of the Lambs' and 'Frankenstein' to mention a few.
The 1920’s films are the start of the horror a genre. At starts it with a bang as the classic is clever and effect piece of artistry to ultimately play on the minds of it viewer during the 1920’s (Even the movie-goers of today). ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ feast upon our fears of mind control and the idea of being possessed. Unmistakable in this period we’re not affected as much due to the fact this is a silent film. The story is simplistic and has the ability for us to ponder such as scary thought. The story in essence, is told as a flash by the main protagonist ‘Francis’ who tells his account of numerous murders in his town which has the correlation to the appearance of Dr. Cagliari and his Carnival show ‘Cesare’ the somnambulist . Whilst murder continues the viewer (no matter from which era) is gripped by this storyline and is eager to see what happen next. Or in this case who’s the next to ‘pop their clogs’. Equally, the story has the typical stereotypes which are closely connected with current films (Such as the Damsel-In-Distress to the more frequently used ‘Mad-Man-Murderer’). Nevertheless after being presented with this Elder of the Horror genre, it is to see its tools and its presentation skills in the many horror film after.
Furthermore this Godfather of Horror is most notable the most abstract and impressionistic piece of footage to be viewed and was most defiantly making the film before it’s time. Wiene’s depiction of a ‘flashback’ was ingenious as the surrealism of the stages decor literally paints the metaphor out to us. The “flashback” set is done in German Expressionist style, with unnatural angles, exaggerated line and an overall trend towards asymmetry. In particular, in many scenes, the shadows were actually painted onto the set, such that, in certain scenes, the shadows lie in direct defiance of natural lighting. The effect creates an unnatural world, in which city officials teeter on impossibly high chairs, triangular doors open at odd angles, and buildings teeter in such a way as to defy gravity. And, worst of all, the shadows never fail, never move, giving the impression that the even the town itself has descended into madness.’ – Julia Merriam. No doubt Wiene’s intention as the whole film is based on the final twist of Francis being the actual man, maikng the feature a another key resource which any horror director needs to sit up and take note of, if wanting to be successful.
Being at the forefront of film ‘The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari’ is defiantly a feat in which no new film has ever beaten. Not to say films of the recent period haven’t shown a scarier film and storyline. But Robert Wiene created pretty much the ‘Big Bang’ of the horror genre with so much originality and perfection that no other horror has been made without stepping its feet on the ideas and innovations portrayed in this truly inspirational feature. ‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari” is a landmark film, important not just to the realm of horror but also to the greater film world.’ - John Shelton. Most defiantly a fair and truthful comment as this feature is one of the founding fathers of the film that have been depicted over the years.