Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920) Film Review
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari by Robert Wiene is considered one of the first true horror films every created and is said to be "one of the most influential films of the silent era". This black and white film follows the memories of Francis, our main character, trying to solve the mysterious murders surrounding a town carnival. As the story unravels, we find that Francis is not the person the audience suspected him to be and that he in fact is the villain in this tale.
Wiene has used a very expressionistic approach to this film, especially with set design. Nothing of the set in the main memory sequence is parallel; the majority of buildings are made up of jagged edges and sharp points. This, perhaps relating to the unstable mind of Francis recalling the events that had happened to him in the past. Even from the poster art, before even seeing the film, you can draw links to expressionistic artists such as Edvard Munch, creator of the famous painting 'The Scream'.
From the still above we can see that the set lacks any detail at all, but just bold dark line work. This may be to remind the audience that the scene being shown is that of a dream state, and so the unimportant parts of the frame are bland shapes leading us to focus more on the main character. Furthermore, the scenery in Francis' memories are all unnatural pieces of set whereas the scenes outside of the recolections of Francis sitting on the bench with another character, we can see a much more natural environment with real trees rather than what looks like jagged pieces of cardboard."The stylized sets, obviously two-dimensional, must have been a lot less expensive than realistic sets and locations"
During the film I noticed a method used in the majority of films today and that is pathetic fallacy. In the film, when a murder is being committed by Cesare we see that it is happening at night; this can then link to the dark and sinister mind of the subject and help to create a much more scary atmosphere. An example of this used in modern cinema could be the first encounter of the the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park; the use of thunder and lighting seems to create a much more chaotic scene.
The horror of the film can also be shown in the way the characters are depicted. For example, the villain (Cesare) is seen to always be wearing dark clothing and thick black makeup used under his eyes and lips. Whereas Jane is shown wearing a clean white dress, representing her innocence.
Watching this film, images are conjured of more recent films of which have drawn massive inspiration from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. One in particular would be Tim Burton's work such as 'Edward Scissorhands' and 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'.