Vertigo & The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

An interesting element of Vertigo, for me, was the similarities between it and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Thematically, both films focused on our innate fears (castration in the case of the former and perception of reality in the latter, amongst other things) and used the landscape and architecture to display this. In Vertigo the Mission San Juan Bautista and its clock tower are used to devastating effect, the phallic nature of the structure and the heights of the tower serving to place the viewer – emotionally – on edge. In Dr. Caligari the landscape serves a similar role, its contorted angles and oppressive presence serving as a reminder of the sinister events that are taking place. They both go to show how important the surrounding world (natural or man-made) are when it comes to framing and interpreting events.

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