Monthly Archives: January 2017

More on The Yellow Wallpaper

When I was writing my essay about confinement in ‘The Yellow Wall-paper’, I sort on went on this tangent so I thought it would be a suitable idea to just continue that stream of consciousness…

In addition to being confined to the nursery, and desperately wanting to mold herself to become the ideal mother and wife for John, by stating “I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already!” (Gilman 649), the protagonist struggles with balancing her husband’s wants with her desire for a creative outlet. He represses her creativity, and says her problems are a product of her overactive imagination. John would tell the narrator that she “was letting it get the better of (her), and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies” (Gilman 649). The subtext of ‘Don’t let your imagination run wild, you should really get a hold of yourself’ is constant through pages 649 and 650. If anything, this just gives a limited view of women because it suggests that if we apply more restrictions and limitations on someone, the better that person will end up being. The narrator goes on to remind the reader that her husband believes “There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?” (Gilman 650). That last line sounds incredibly manipulative. I suppose it does because John plays two roles in the narrator’s life – the doctor and the husband. The relationship between husband and wife turns into something more aggravating and intense, like a father and child, doctor and patient relationship, where there is an obvious authority figure that dictates, or even unknowingly manipulates the submissive one. Of course I am not trying to state that John is the villain in the story because in my perspective, I see him as a reflection of the 19th century man. I assume he wants the best for his wife/his patient, even though he can seem controlling and manipulative (but keep in mind that these accounts are coming from a very unreliable narrator). With that being said, I suppose this exhibits society’s values destructing women’s individuality. Gilman confirms women’s little significance by not even providing the narrator a name until perhaps at the very end. Note that also the narrator has no traditional mother and wife tasks to do, which truly lowers her significance in society. The women who have taken on the narrator’s societal identities the protagonist is forbidden and incapable of doing, are the ones who do have names. The narrator compliments and compares herself to Mary and Jennie, by saying, “It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous.” (Gilman 649), and “She is a perfect and enthusiastic house keeper, and hopes for no better profession” (Gilman 650).

Also!!!! I found this book particularly difficult to write an essay on..I guess it’s because there are so many layers and complexities to this short story, and how there can be so many interpretations, which really leaves everything out in the open and having to write an essay focusing on a certain interpretation can feel a bit daunting since every sort of interpretation can bleed into another…

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

So here are some things I’ve noticed from watching this film that really caught my eye…

In ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’, there is this huge use of jagged landscapes, spiky objects, tilted walls and windows, blades, things looking sharp like knives, crooked asymmetry etc. I mean, even the title sequences’ font is jagged and sharp. This aesthetic not only makes this silent film stand out from other silent films that usually have a tendency to mirror reality, but the style in ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ is bizarre. It’s radical distortion. There’s no sense of safety, I feel as a viewer, I’m constantly sensing danger and darkness. Even the score of the film doesn’t have to tell me to be paranoid, the mise en scene tells me to be so.

The 2D sets definitely make a difference in the film. It heightens the eeriness of the film, and how far fetched we are from the norm. The crooked asymmetry of objects like windows could reflect a warped reality, a skewed perception, which totally makes sense. It’s very fitting. I believe this isn’t just a horror film that started the German Expressionist era, but a psychological fantasy type film. The make up on the actors is dramatic, especially the eye make up! It’s usually black around the eyes. Not only does this draw attention to the actors’ eyes, but it creates a motif – that we have to constantly be looking/watching what the actors’ eyes are telling what the audience needs to know. It’s eerie and I like it. Even the exaggerated movements of the actors create this out-of-the-norm experience for the audience. Everything is so heightened. The stakes feel so much higher with everything being so dramatic. Even the constant close up shots or extremely long takes with deep focus (to allow everything in the mise en scene to be in focus) with little editing is a smack in the face for the viewer. We have to be constantly aware of what is going on. The director is allowing us to see what he wants us to see. He wants us to see everything, or at least everything he wants us to know within the frame. The constant reminder of distorted vision through the physical background of shots is cinematic innovation, it highlights the protagonist’s skewed perception and draws the audience closer to the darker side of the human psyche, which I find fascinating.

The extreme distortions and discordant angles most definitely contribute to German Expressionism. I can totally see how ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ as well as other films foretold the rise of Nazism. I can see how the film is a reflection of unconventional composition of shots and wrong angles, the lost of once cherished values… Hitler = Caligari. German people = the sleepwalkers.

ALSO, the Iris Shot. Wiene is seriously into the iris shot. And I like to think this is why: it contributes to him allowing us the privilege to see what he wants us to see. He wants us to be aware. He wants us to look. He’s given that subjective perspective to focus on the intimate details that the audience can only see. The eyes say a lot and I guess Wiene wanted to stress on that gesture.