Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920)

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.

Illustration List


  1. Hey Josh :)

    I'm going to leave my colleague Jackie Hagan to feedback in terms of some of the formal academic conventions you'll need to think about in terms of your reviews as outlined on the brief - but in general terms, I find it very satisfying to read here that so many 'lightbulbs' were going off in your head as you watched what is not the easiest of films; yes, Burton's penguin was directly inspired by Caligari. It seems so obvious now doesn't it? Nice to read such an enthusiastic first review, but in addition to what Jackie will add, I'd like you to check out the 'Academic Writing - Hints & Tips' pdf on myUCA/Spaceandenvironment/essays folder, because it will get you thinking about your style and how to bring a more scholarly approach. Good stuff, and well done for getting this up and out there :)

  2. Hi Josh - yes, I'll follow up on what Phil says....well done for getting an enthusiastic review out there! :)
    Just a few pointers - I would definitely have a look at the Hints and Tips guide that Phil recommends, as a way to give your writing a more 'academic' voice... for example, it is generally recommended that you try and write in the 3rd person, rather than the 1st, as this makes your work more objective and less personal - see page 4 of the guide.
    You should also make sure your ideas are backed up by 3 quotes - again the guide is useful to explain how to use a quote effectively. You don't want to just drop it in without and introduction or unpicking :) Once you have your quote, you will need to make sure it is referenced correctly, both within the text and in a bibliography - see here
    Have a look at Google Scholar for book excerpts, try the library for books on German expressionist cinema etc etc....
    Just a reminder of what the brief is asking you to provide -

    'Reviews of the ‘Space Oddities’ Film programme. Please note – in addition to
    and support of your own critique, your reviews must include a minimum of 3
    quotations from 3 different published sources + poster art + supporting stills.
    Please note - Harvard Method must be used for all quotations and all illustrations to be referenced correctly. Reviews are to include bibliography and illustration list.'

    Greta start though - good luck with the next one! :)