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'Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari' How the Environment Affects the Audience. Review 22/09/2015

'Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari' Artwork

Robert Weine's 'Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari' is a film that uses madness and insanity as an illusion to cover up the truth of what is really going on. This review will focus on how the environment of the film related and contributed to what was happening in the film. The film was made on February 26th 1920, at which point in time visual effects in films and videogames was not very advanced because of the limitations with technology. Due to this film being one of the first of its kind it has had a massive influence on later generations of films and videogames. Even now the film still has the same impressions on its audience over 80 years later - take this quote from a review for example; "Its an intellectual terror in the grand old style, giving you the same thrill you get from reading Frankenstein or Dr Jeykl and Mr Hyde" (Eaton. 2002). This film is said to be the inspiration for a number of horror films, even now, the film's legacy has been revived, remade and remastered a number of times.

Poster for 'Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari'
The film begins with two men sitting down in a forest, this is one of the most important scenes in the film as it plays a big role in unravelling the plot near the end. It is one of only two scenes in the entire film that is almost all natural and real. As you notice in the film there is a lot of drawn and hand crafted backgrounds, all of which can look very distorted and odd, giving a sense of unease and danger. In the real world, things tend to usually look normal and natural, say for instance a town, you expect houses aligned in a particular fashion, pointing straight up with little to no curves. In the film however, most of the backgrounds are very distorted and out of place giving a feeling of madness and anxiety, it does not look correct. Take for example the town; it is twisted, claustrophobic and warped, all to give the impression of unease and madness like something is wrong. What stands out is that because the film was made in 1920 when there were little to no special effects, it was the first of its kind and is nothing compared to the resources we have now. But in the 1920's this film was very ahead of it's time; the black and white colour scheme really suited the theme of the film and it compliments the overall feeling of the film. Having the darker colours where you can't see anything gives the movie a feeling of unknown and fear, not knowing what is there lurking in the darkness.

 'Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari' City Backdrop
'Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari' Dr. Caligari's shack
Another piece of evidence to suggest that the environment plays a crucial role in selling the genre to it's audience is that the sets are like something you would see out of a pantomime, telling the audience that everything is not real and merely an illusion. Once again though, this could be due to either lack of resources or just the sheer amount of time it would have taken to create all those sets. More advanced sets would have taken up a large portion of the production. However one scene in the film is able to show that the way the set was designed  was intentional, when Ceaser (Conrad Veidt) attempts to murder Jane (Lil Dagover) notice how there is only a small amount of distortion in the set. Remember that this is all in Francis's (Friedrich Feher) head and we are currently watching an event which took place without Francis's presence. This reinforces the concept that the stage design was intentional and not a coincidence. How could Francis witness an event which he never attended?

'Das Cabinet Des Dr. Calidari' Street Concept
'Das Cabinet Des Dr. Calidari' Night time street

A key factor in the film is that whenever there is a drawn backdrop in the film it is nothing more than Francis's head playing games with him. When something is drawn on paper, it is an idea, a concept, something in your head until you get it out, its fictional. You could argue that they could not use more special effects due to the budget and lack of technology. But there is even more evidence to suggest that it was once again intentional. A quote "Budget, $18,000 (Estimated) (IMDb, 2002) states that the entire film cost $18,000 to make. That may not seem like a lot of money for a film in our generation (2015) considering that the budget for some films today can range from $100,000 (One Hundred Thousand Dollars) to $10,000,000 (Ten Million Dollars). In the 1920's $18,000 (Eighteen Thousand Dollars) would have roughly equated to over $800,000 (Eight Hundred Thousand Dollars) in our time (2015), which is roughly on par with the cost of some of our modern day films, and shows they did have the finances to afford more.

'Das Cabinet Des Dr. Calidari' Francis's Room
The final observation that can clearly be seen in the film, and the evidence provided in this review, is that there was a lot of time put into how the films backdrops was made. The meaning behind some of the design decisions goes extremely deep and when you look in the detail at this film you can see that Robert Weine put a lot of time and care into the environments. Choosing specific angles and shapes to give a feeling of madness and unease really pulled off in the end, setting an example for all horror genres in later generations."A masterpiece!" (Villares. 2002).



Sources

Illustration List

Fig 1, 'Das Cabinet Des Dr Calidari' front Cover Artwork (Accessed 22/09/2015)

Fig 2, 'Das Cabinet Des Dr Calidari' Rooftop Poster (Accessed 22/09/2015)

Fig 3, 'Das Cabinet Des Dr Calidari' Town Backdrop (Accessed 22/09/2015)

Fig 4, 'Das Cabinet Des Dr Calidari' Calidary's Shack (Accessed 22/09/2015)

Fig 5, 'Das Cabinet Des Dr Calidari' Street Concept Art (Accessed 23/09/2015)

Fig 6, 'Das Cabinet Des Dr Calidari' Night Time Street

Fig 7, 'Das Cabinet Des Dr Calidari' Night-time Street (Accessed 23/09/2015)

Fig 8, 'Das Cabinet Des Dr Calidari' Francis's Room (Accessed 22/09/2015)


Bibliography

Daniel Villares (2002) The Cabinet of Dr. Calidari, IMDb (Accessed on 23/09/2015)

IMDB 'Das Cabinet Des Dr. Calidari' Apparent cost to produce (N/A) The Cabinet of Dr. Calidari, IMDb (Accessed on 22/09/2015)

Tim Eaton (2002) The Cabinet of Dr. Calidari, IMDb (Accessed on 22/09/2015)

Resources used for currency evidence

Source used to translate 1920 currency value to 2015 currency value, (Accessed on 23/09/2015)


Source used to translate Dollar into Pounds/Sterling, (Accessed on 23/09/2015)

Comments

  1. Hi Thomas,

    You have touched on some very relevant topics in this review - well done :)
    A couple of little pointers... firstly, make sure that your text is not 'centred'; it should either be aligned to the left, or better still, justified. This stops your writing looking like a piece of verse.
    You need to have at least 3 quotes, and these need to be quotes of some substance; so, for example you may have found a quote that talks about the relationship between the crooked set and the protagonist's frame of mind, or perhaps a quote to back up your discussion on use of colour (or lack of). The quotes will need to be referenced using the Harvard method, as you have done in the 2 short extracts that you have included. Make sure that your bibliography is set out correctly, with the author's surname first, and arranged alphabetically by surname.. You should also label your images 'figure 1' etc, alongside the caption, and then create an illustrations list which goes after the bibliography. Have a look here for full details of what is required - http://community.ucreative.ac.uk/Harvard-Referencing

    Looking forward to reading your next review!

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  2. Ah, and just an afterthought....this sentence - 'The film was made on February 26th 1920, at which point in time visual effects in films and videogames was not very advanced' - you don't need to be so precise with the release date - the year will do. And I think that video games were non-existent, rather than not very advanced :)

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  3. Thanks a million Jackie, I will get working on this right away!

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  4. Hi Thomas!!
    Don't worry about re-editing this review :) Just take everything on board for the next one!

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  5. "However one scene in the film is able to show that the way the set was designed was intentional, when Ceaser (Conrad Veidt) attempts to murder Jane (Lil Dagover) notice how there is only a small amount of distortion in the set. Remember that this is all in Francis's (Friedrich Feher) head and we are currently watching an event which took place without Francis's presence. This reinforces the concept that the stage design was intentional and not a coincidence. How could Francis witness an event which he never attended?" Tom - this is a fascinating observation! :)

    ReplyDelete

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