Hi all! My post for this week's edition of ''Great Movies' will be shorter than last time's. My goal here is to pique your interest and perhaps inspire you to watch something you might not have otherwise watched. Also, as a reminder, please send me suggestions and a short blurb about the movie you chose! These can be as short or long as you choose--the goal here is just to turn this into a more communal forum. We want to hear from all of you! As a reminder, my email address is email@example.com.
Today's 'Great Movie' is Weimer Republic (the name for the German state between the years 1919 and 1933) director Robert Wiene's 1920 proto-horror classic, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). The film is a landmark work in the movement that has since been called 'German Expressionism' (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Expressionism). German Expressionism is a movement notable for its filmmakers' rejections of the natural objective reality--they instead opted to portray their subjects in distorted forms, strange perspectives, and odd colors, hoping to evoke subconscious emotion through their subversion of expected forms.
This film tells the story of a deranged hypnotist and his somnambulist ('sleepwalker'--though here it's almost more of a dead man come to life) who come to a small town in Germany and commit a series of heinous, ghastly crimes. There is also the insertion of a frame narrative, which has come to be somewhat controversial in retrospect (the Wikipedia page for the film has a good description as to why, though I'd recommend seeing the film first: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cabinet_of_Dr._Caligari).
However, the film's most interesting element is its overall look--its incredibly distinctive mise-en-scène, or the setup of the shot--what's there before the camera starts rolling (e.g. lighting, makeup, set design, etc.--here's the wikipedia page on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mise-en-sc%C3%A8ne). The lighting is fragmented and abstract. Buildings are jagged and terrifying. There seem to be shadows lurking in the shadows. Lamp posts are no longer merely sources of light, but terrifying, jagged monsters that lurk in the night. It is one of the most interesting looking films ever put to celluloid--despite its age (97 years now!), the strangeness of the set design still makes it feel remarkably unique and invigorated. It is strangely affecting.
Though it is a silent film, it is incredibly gripping, and a must see for anybody who takes cinema seriously or considers him or herself a film aficionado. Dr. Caligari remains subconsciously affecting, and still creepy, even nearly a hundred years after its release.