|Das Cabinet poster|
Frankly, I was astounded by how contemporary this film is, considering that it was produced almost a century ago; however this did not detract from any kind of artistic value it had to offer. Almost a hundred years later, nobody was to know that Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari would constantly crop-up under the umbrella of Tim-Burton-esque in its style, despite having got there first. From the opening frames, the sharp stabs of orchestral violin perfectly accompany the jaggedly abstract subtitle breaks, which were often laden with maddening shapes and symbols. Once the ominous tone was set, the environments and the characters within them became increasingly more surreal, particularly during exterior shots of the cleverly crafted town, seemingly melting in the mind of its storyteller. The gothic dwellings and inexplicable architecture of the place truly transports the audience into the tale and fights against the typical norms of society. Admittedly, I found myself consistently finding parallels with Burton’s work, from the cane-brandishing portrayal of The Penguin by Danny De Vito in Batman Returns, to the closed-mouth initial creepiness of Edward Scissorhands. Even the extraordinarily high stools at which minor characters were perched with their hunched spines perfectly curving them into a ball made me consider just how many contemporary films had followed suit. Das Cabinet essentially builds itself around the instability of mental illness, and possibly even bases its style on the abstract perspective of a deranged individual. It was also interesting to note that the jagged black lines painted on the asylum walls perhaps represented the branches of trees, which often would signify health, but in this instance had completely decayed, much like Francis’ mind. I feel inspired, having watched this film, to not let abstract ideas get in the way of my environmental designs, as often the most brilliantly mad concepts can open the gateway to future artistic movements.
Figure 1. Das Cabinet poster http://headhuntershorrorhouse.wikia.com/wiki/File:Das_Cabinet_des_Dr._Caligari_(1920).jpg