Seminar Presentation: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

In the first half of Monday’s lecture by Jason, we discussed greatly in depth how all of the artistic decisions, even those that seem rather insignificant or minute, in the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari greatly influence everything about how we, the audience, perceive the storyline. The sets and exaggerated movements of the silent actors in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari contribute to the overall tone of the film and further the plot by creating an expressionist dream world that captivates the audience by communicating emotion in unconventional ways. For example, using yellow lighting during daytime sequences and blue lighting during nighttime sequences conveys a feeling of warmth and safety in daylight that is lacking at night as Cesare rises strikes.

Additionally, how does the irony of Francis being the truly insane one influence our understanding of the storyline? How is that irony affected by the addition of a frame by the director? To ~frame~ this question (pardon the pun), during the making of the film, the director framed the movie by filming an unwritten opening scene in which we see the now disturbed Francis in an asylum, retelling the story of how he ended up here and that of Dr. Caligari. This scene was added against the artistic wishes of the writers, as the original film was meant to be purely the story of a madman: “[It] dishonours our drama – the tragedy of a man gone mad by the misuse [by another] of his mental powers – into a cliché, in which the symbolism was to be lost.” The inclusion of the frame to the film took it from a “revolutionary critique of murderous authority” to a “conformist film: simply the deranged fantasy of a sick mind (under the care of benevolent authority)”. The critique of societal and government structure was entirely lost, completely altering audience perception of it both then and today.

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