January 25, 2011

Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari/The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)

It has been a good 15 years since I last watched Caligari. Then it was a 16mm print projected without sound, this time streamed in hi-def from Netflix into my family room. This tinted version was a great find. For the first time I noticed the braids of the Doctor. I could imagine Mickey Rourke playing this role in an updated version. Veidt (who you may remember as the German officer in Casablanca) playing the goth somnambulist Cesare. I picture a young Peter Murphy in that role today. Weine dreams up sets and situations that made me think of Terry Gilliam today. And then there was XTC's song "Somnambulist" that kept running thru my head (something I would have been listening to 15 years ago). Anyhow. This is a classic film that needs no updating in special effects or soundtrack. The visuals are stunning. I was amazed at how this film draws you in and keeps you captivated.

Rating: 9/10

Things to note: Note the use of sets to heighten the mystery and suspense. Note costuming and make-up. Note use of facial expressions and gestures. If you are watching a hi-def transfer you can get a good look at the faces. How are they like our own? Different? What cinematic techniques are used to help tell the story?