Dr. Caligari & Nosferatu… The Mystery of the Characters

Okay so personally, the silent German films that we have been told to watch would most definitely not make it onto my recommendations to others list but there are quite a few interesting themes and scenes that keep popping up in my head…

Honestly, I think that everyone is insane in some shape or form in both movies and that they all need some help.

For Caligari:

A.) Was Alan ever real or was he just an entity that Francis made up in his head?

B.) If Dr. Caligari is not an evil puppeteer and is, in fact, the insane asylum director, why does he say that he can fix Francis?

C.) Can anyone honestly find the “correct answer” to any of the questions above?

So obviously, there is no one, right answer. In fact, much of the film is shrouded in ambiguity and leaves much of it to the interpretation of the viewer. To the first question I addressed above, I really don’t know if Alan was real or if he was simply a figment of  Francis’s imagination. If Alan was an actual character, who really killed him and why? It doesn’t quite add up for someone to randomly kill him off.

Secondly, it is really odd that Dr. Caligari says that he knows how to fix Fancis. In fact, to fix him, he would have to have known or understood what Francis was thinking but that is something that is entirely in Francis’s mind. Therefore, is Dr. Caligari good or bad? To me, I believe that Dr. Caligari is still the evil puppeteer who has everyone in the palm of his hand and is secretly manipulating those around him. Or, is he really is a benevolent insane asylum director who had nothing to do with the so-called persona of Dr. Caligari? It’s quite confusing and I think it’s an open ending which is up for interpretation …. Although, The name Caligari is a foreign name, it’s Italian, not German. Therefore, it could be trying to show the fear of foreign people, ideas, or things during the Weimar Republic.

Okay, thanks for reading this and I know this is like two weeks ago but just thought it would be interesting to share! 🙂

1 Thought.

  1. Good questions, Christel!
    I think you’re right that the film leaves these questions open. If we are to take the whole story as being in Francis’ mind, then either we could wonder if Alan ever existed, or perhaps if he did, whether Francis killed him and blamed it on Caligari/Cesare. I’m not sure there is any way to decide between these for sure (or whether there are maybe other options too).

    You’re right with the question of why “Caligari” says he can fix Francis. Clearly he would have had to know something about the Caligari figure in order to say now he understands what’s wrong with Francis. Maybe, if we take him as the benevolent asylum director, we could imagine that he knows about this historical Caligari person because of his own research. But then that raises the question: why would Francis know about the historical Caligari? I can’t help thinking about the claim that the frame narrative at the beginning and end was put on later, after the original story was written, and it might just have ended up raising significant problems that wouldn’t have been there otherwise!

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