Friday, August 21, 2009

#74 - Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920)
Slightly Trashy

Directed by: Robert Wiene. Written by: Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer.

Plot: The doctor (Werner Krauss) controls a somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) who predicts deaths as part of a carnival act. During the night, dude kills the people he predicted will die. Wow, that is subtle… granted, it's pretty much the same gimmick as was in The Ring.

Review: Don’t get me wrong, but this movie is fucking weird. It doesn’t really seem that strange while you’re watching it but when you try to explain it to a friend later on, then the weirdness gets you. I mean, really. What the fuck.

But it is actually really creepy considering how old it is (everybody knows things get less and less scary with age). The first time I saw it, I was at home and I thought it was alright. I was digging the art direction and Conrad Veidt. The second time I saw it was at the Jazz Festival in Halifax a few years ago. They were projecting it in an auditorium with live music. There was a really good atmosphere in the audience and for once the music was actually good and written for the film (I usually mute the volume on silent movies just coz the soundtrack they slap in there is usually terrible and inappropriate for the scene), the way it was meant to be, and it really creeped me out.

That was around when I learned that conditions have to be right for horror flicks to be enjoyed properly. I started going to a lot more horror flicks in the theatre, I started going alone, I stopped eating in the theatre, I started sitting in the front row, I stopped going to the bathroom altogether. All of these enhance the film for me for whatever reason.

Anyway, the second viewing of this movie left a huge impact on me and I still think about Cesare when I walk around in the dark. Among other things. Rapists, murderers, muggers, mutants, cannibals, people walking dogs. I am a little bit on the paranoid side…

Anyway, on top of the creepy atmosphere and the general weirdness of the plot, there’s the fucking awesome sets (which I guess goes with the ‘atmosphere’ but deserves it’s own paragraph). They’re just so cool looking and totally goth. I remember when I was in my serious goth phase (I still consider myself to be of the gothic persuasion, although I wear a lot more colours and a lot less make-up now) I used to want my whole room to look like this movie. I loved it.

I mean, the shadows are, like, painted on and the exteriors are all painted and stuff. Very cool. This is also one of those movies which would not work in colour (even if, like, Tim Burton did it) and points out how awesome black and white can be if it’s used properly. This movie laughs in the face of colour. I dunno, it be whack.

Favourite Part: I just liked the art direction. I thought the art direction was the shit.

Other Versions: Remade twice in ‘62 and ‘05.

Sequels: None.

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