Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Being released in 1920, Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was an extremely controversial and unsettling piece of work when first unleashed among German audiences. Like the many German Expressionist films that followed it, Caligari focuses on several themes that weren’t openly discussed at the time, and to some degree, still aren’t: murder, loneliness, hopelessness, and rape, just to name a few. The film has several honorable credentials up its sleeve, including for being the first of the horror genre, and is even often cited as a major inspiration for film noir, which debuted only a few years later (while the “first” film noir is debated, some consider M to hold the title, directed by fellow German director Fritz Lang). This scene, where Dr. Caligari’s puppet Cesare attempts to claim another victim, is potentially the most hair-raising of the film’s (rather short) duration. This is particularly due to Giuseppe Becce’s haunting composition, which not only holds up against many compositions to this day - it outmatches them.