The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari) Reviews
Com base nesta corrente subjetiva surgiram os filmes Nosferatu (1922) de Murnau e Metropolis (1927) de Lang, mas foi Robert Wiene o arquiteto deste movimento na 7º arte, ao realizar o filme mudo Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari.
Na feira anual de Holstenwall o Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) obtém permissão para montar uma tenda e fazer o seu espetáculo com Cesare (Conrad Veidt), o sonâmbulo, que consegue adivinhar o futuro. Francis (Friedrich Feher) e o seu amigo Alan (Hans Twardowski) visitam a tenda popular e Alan pergunta a Cesare até quando é que vai viver. Cesare responde prontamente que Alan vai viver apenas até esta madrugada. Quando Alan é encontrado morto de manhã, parece que este é apenas mais um dos crimes que têm acontecido recentemente. Francis, determinado a descobrir o culpado, começa a investigar o Dr. Caligari.
O que desde logo salta à vista é o aspeto bizarro do cenário. Os atores estão rodeados de ângulos afiados, paredes, portas e janelas tortas, longas escadarias diagonais, tudo com contrastes agressivos entre luz e sombra. Podemos também encontrar exagero na maquilhagem e no guarda-roupa. A distorção da realidade cria um mundo surreal vívido que vai de encontro ao teor da narrativa e reflete o estado de espírito das personagens.
Os argumentistas Hans Janowitz e Carl Mayer trabalham as personagens de Caligari e Cesare como uma metáfora para a opressão de um regime sobre um povo, algo que é reforçado pelo plano de fundo onde observamos casas construídas numa montanha com um castelo no topo e pela altura anormal das cadeiras dos homens do poder.
A captar as performances eloquentes está o diretor de fotografia Willy Hameister que imortalizou algumas das imagens mais marcantes do cinema. Entre elas, o rosto de Cesare e quando o mesmo se aproxima para assassinar. A câmara está frequentemente estática, mas a montagem inovadora permite intercalar cenas em diferentes espaços de modo a articular sequências tensas quando o enredo pede um ritmo mais acelerado.
A sua estreia no grande ecrã foi há quase 100 anos, mas Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari continua a surpreender com uma sucessão de plot-twists inovadores que perpetuam o caráter psicótico da história. É uma obra-prima gótica que ajudou a estruturar o próprio ADN do cinema e estendeu a passadeira vermelha para vários clássicos que, de uma forma ou de outra, inspiraram-se na sua genialidade.
Now in all honesty, by around the half-way mark, my interest in the film hadn't spiked. The plot, while unique, wasn't overly gripping - with an opening segment that felt almost convoluted - and the characters hadn't been developed enough to hold my attention. Furthermore, the use of exaggerated expressions wholly altered the "supposed horror film", removing all tension and instead rending it almost as a comedy of sorts. Now I'm completely aware that due to limitations (particularly in sound) the use of "showing not telling" was essential in getting the film's narrative across, but ultimately the forceful acting (Caligari in particular) started to make the movie feel more like a pantomime.
As the story furthered, the predictability of the conclusion became rather apparent. That was until the commencement of Act VI. The final act alone is one of the most exceptional examples of inspirational cinema in the industry, introducing well-executed techniques such as the distinguished "twist ending", thus eliminating my initial doubt and lack of interest. It instead drew me into one of the most compelling endings in classic cinema and possibly introducing the world to the first psychological thriller. It became clear that the jarring acting and fantasy-like sets were all purposeful underlying themes in this experimental journey.
I would be lying if I were to say that this film isn't inspirational, both stylistically and visually this movie has evidently had an impact on the past 98 years of cinema. Wiene's revolutionary direction and Janowitz's and Mayer's superbly-executed plot transform this into an innovative and gripping tale of deceit, while ultimately drawing attention to the merit of Germany's ever-broadening film industry.
Misteriosa e intrigante, con una complaciente narrativa y un final impresionante.
What was nice was the sort of creepy atmosphere the movie created and the set pieces were really nice. And obviously that surprising twist at the end was a great touch.
This movie's a one-time watch sort of ordeal.
The stylized sets, obviously two-dimensional, must have been a lot less expensive than realistic sets and locations, but I doubt that's why the director, Robert Wiene, wanted them. He is making a film of delusions and deceptive appearances, about madmen and murder, and his characters exist at right angles to reality. None of them can quite be believed, nor can they believe one another.
The film opens in the German town of Holstenwall, seen in a drawing as houses like shrieks climbing a steep hill. After a prologue, a story is told: A sideshow operator named Caligari (Werner Krauss) arrives at the fair to exhibit the Somnambulist, a man he claims has been sleeping since his birth 23 years ago. This figure, named Cesare (Conrad Veidt), sleeps in a coffin and is hand-fed by the crazed-looking doctor, who claims he can answer any question.
The hero, Francis (Frederich Feher), visits the show with his friend Alan (Hans Heinz von Twardowski), who boldly asks, "When will I die?" The reply is chilling: "At first dawn!" At dawn Alan is dead. Suspicion falls on Cesare. Francis keeps watch all night through a window as Caligari sleeps next to the closed coffin. But the next morning, his fiancee, Jane (Lil Dagover), has been abducted. Does that clear the doctor and the Somnambulist from suspicion?
In itself, this is not a startling plot. The film's design transforms it into something very weird, especially as Cesare is seen carrying the unconscious Jane and is pursued by a mob. The chase carries them through streets of stark lights and shadows and up a zigzagging mountain trail. Caligari, meanwhile, is followed by Francis as he returns to where he apparently lives -- the insane asylum, where he is the ... director! Evidence is discovered by Francis and the local police that Caligari, influenced by an occult medieval manuscript, yearned to find a somnambulist and place him under a hypnotic spell, subjecting him to his will.
A case can be made that "Caligari" was the first true horror film. There had been earlier ghost stories and the eerie serial "Fantomas" made in 1913-14, but their characters were inhabiting a recognizable world. "Caligari" creates a mindscape, a subjective psychological fantasy. In this world, unspeakable horror becomes possible.
"Caligari" is said to be the first example in cinema of German Expressionism, a visual style in which not only the characters but the world itself is out of joint. I don't know of another film that used its extreme distortions and discordant angles, but its over-all attitude certainly cleared the way for "The Golem," "Nosferatu," "Metropolis" and "M." In one of the best-known books ever written about film, From Caligari to Hitler, the art historian Siegfried Kracauer argued that the rise of Nazism was foretold by the preceding years of German films, which reflected a world at wrong angles and lost values. In this reading, Caligari was Hitler and the German people were sleepwalkers under his spell.
I don't believe the films caused Nazism in Germany, and whether they predicted it depends a great deal on hindsight. What is certain is that the Expressionist horror films created the most durable and bulletproof of genres. No other genre has box-office appeal all by itself, although film noir, also deeply influenced by Expressionism, comes close. All a horror film need promise is horror -- the unspeakable, the terrifying, the merciless, the lurching monstrous figure of destruction. It needs no stars, only basic production values, just the ability to promise horror.
The 1920s were the decade that saw the rise of the Dada and Surrealist movements. The first rejected all pretense, all standards, all sincerity. It was a profound expression of hopelessness and alienation. It led to the rise of the related art movement Surrealism, which cut loose from order and propriety, rejected common values, scorned tradition and sought to overthrow society with anarchy. It's said such movements were a reaction to the horror of World War I, which upset decades of relative tranquility and order, threw the European nations into unstable new relationships and presented the inhuman spectacle of modern mechanized battle. After the brutality of trench warfare, it would be difficult to return to landscapes and still life.
"The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" as a viewing experience must have been unsettling to the audiences of 1920. The original Variety review, which cheerfully reveals the ending, tries in its stilted wording to express enthusiasm: "This has resulted in a series of actions so perfectly dovetailed as to carry the story through at a perfect tempo. Robert Wiene has made perfect use of settings designed by Hermann Warm, Walter Reimann and Walter Roehrig, settings that squeeze and turn and adjust the eye and through the eye the mentality."
Although the prose suggests chiropractic, I imagine some viewers indeed felt squeezed, turned and adjusted by the images. The film today still casts its spell. I viewed the version on a DVD from Kino, which (unusually with silent films of its vintage) includes all the original footage. The film has not been digitally restored to remove all flaws, but in a way those that remain --spots, blemishes -- add to the effect. You feel as if you're watching an old record of an old story, which includes within itself an even older one. The original film was tinted, so there are no purely black-and-white scenes, only those mostly in shades of reddish-brown and slate blue.
Wiene is fond of the iris shot, which opens or closes upon a scene like an eye. This makes the point that we are looking and are privileged to witness events closed to other people. He also sparingly uses a device of superimposing words on the image to show Alan feeling surrounded by voices. Wiene's closeups lean heavily on Caligari's fierce and sinister scowl, the dewy innocence of Jane, and the wide-eyed determination of Alan. The Somnambulist is not very expressive -- he certainly lacks the charisma of Frankenstein's monster, who in a way he inspired -- and is most often seen in long shot, as if the camera considers him an object, not a person.
The sets are presented, as they must be, in mostly longer shots, establishing their spiky and ragged points and edges. The visual environment plays like a wilderness of blades; the effect is to deny the characters any place of safety or rest. It isn't surprising that the "Caligari" set design inspired so few other films, although its camera angles, lighting and drama can clearly be seen throughout film noir, for example in the visual style of "The Third Man" (1949).
Robert Wiene (1873-1938) began his career in 1913 and directed 47 films, including "Raskolnikow," based onCrime and Punishment,and the famous "The Hands of Orlac" (1924). He fled the rise of Hitler and at the time of his death was working on "Ultimatum" (1938), with another refugee, Erich von Stroheim. Conrad Veidt (1893-1943), another refugee, made 119 films and was a major star of the time, whose credits included the great "The Man Who Laughs" (1928) and of course "Casablanca"(1942), where he played Major Strasser, who met an unexpected end at the airport. (All three titles are also in my Great Movies Collection.)
Misteriosa e intrigante, con una complaciente narrativa y un final impresionante.