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The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (U)
12th March 2020 8:00 pm
One of the key films of German Expressionist cinema, this diabolical tale has been incalculably influential on horror, film noir and gothic cinema.
At a local carnival in a small German town, hypnotist Dr. Caligari presents the somnambulist named Cesare who can purportedly predict the future. But at night, the doctor wakes Cesare from his sleep to enact his evil bidding… one which would change the lives of many in the town forever. The film’s nightmarishly jagged sets, sinister atmosphere and psychological weight remain as mesmerising as ever. As part of a new season celebrating 100 years since the beginning of the 1920s, the final decade of the silent era, South West Silents and Borderlines are proud to present this unique screening of one of the landmark titles in cinema history for the film’s 100th anniversary.
SILENT with live music by Stephen Horne, one of the UK’s foremost silent film accompanists.
Director: Robert Wiene
Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Lil Dagover
Germany, 1920, 1 hour 17 minutes
To see the full Borderlines 2020 schedule, please click HERE.
Conceived during the rise of Nazism in Germany, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" was initially described as
"horrible" "terrifying" " a cinematic monstrosity" and also " enigmatic" "strangely moving" and so on.
But most importantly this remarkably haunting masterpiece of early German Gothic film was viewed quite rightly as deeply influential,
and its value in that context which includes "film noir", "horror shockers" etc..has affected film makers right up to today.
A small German town is waving its flags, setting up booths for entertainments and sideshows and vending cheap food,
and for its citizens.excitement is in the air, since it is clearly carnival time.
Switch to a local government office where a heavily-built man with bulging eyes, pebble lens glasses, shaggy white hair and an
overcoat to his ankles, is pestering the town clerk for permission to set up his side-show. The town clerk is resistant, the white-haired showman
is not to be refused permission and finally wins.
Remember the film was made during the last decade of the silent era, so the miming which gets the story across is several times life size.
Yet you are caught up immediately and speech would somehow be an irrelevance.
We move back to the fair, now armed with a certificate giving him permission to present his show, Dr. Caligari begins to work
the crowd with the promise of a sommnambulist who has been asleep for 22 years. Meanwhile we learn the townsfolk are bedevilled with a serial killer
who murders at night.
Caligari reveals to the awe-struck crowd a sinister coffin. Inside is a tall figure with the face and shagged out expression of Boris Karloff ( who came later, and whose movie persona of monstrous horror, could well--and probably was---taken from Caligari's sommnambulis)t.
The eerie value of this movie is oddly affecting, since the mise-en-scene is based upon Expressionism, an art form where what you feel in your nerve endings is
what you paint. And so the views of the town roofs and streets resemble art book illustration of the time, shadowy, vaguely erotic and strangely worrying.Harry Clarke comes to mind
The young Conrad Veidt played the killer sommnambulist with an amazing facility for shaping up horror. His eyes alone, opening like pools of darkness, would stop your heart beating. tAt one point he slides into his victtim's bedroom at night,admires her then kills her, throws her over his shoulder like a sack of vegetables, and finally disposes of the corpse somwhere in this unreal town, and all of it carried out in a hypnotic state under Dr. Caligari's commands, the man behind the murders.
Veidt learned his role well. He left Germany with the rise of Hitler and Jewish persecution and appeared as Von Strasser, the Nazi officer in the Hollywood film "Casablanca", eventually playing the chilling Vizier who could turn humans into dogs in the stupendous 1938 Korda movie "The Thief of Bagdad" with Sabu and John Justin--the finest Arabian Nights movie ever filmed.