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Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The (1920)
Movie Review by Professor Corpse Rot

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The (1920) Here's another classic from the Silent Era. This German Expressionist film also commonly goes by the title of Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. It is considered highly influential due to its artistic direction and I'll discuss that in a moment.

The story takes place in the German mountain village of Hostenwall. The tale is told in a series of flashbacks by the main character, Francis, who along with his friend Alan, visit an attraction at a carnival. There, they witness Dr. Caligari, who presents to the audience his somnambulist attraction, Cesare - a man with a severe sleeping disorder who has the ability of predicting "future" events. Cesare informs Alan that he will die tomorrow, a prediction that later proves to be true. Eventually, Francis and his girlfriend Jane, try investigating Caligari and Cesare until the story produces an interesting twist.

German Expressionism was an artistic movement that covered various mediums during the 1920's. In terms of cinema, European production crews had a difficult time emulating the more realistic and high-budget approach to film-making that was introduced by Universal in the United States. The reaction to this was a more artistic angle, one that touched upon a deeper meaning with the use of symbolism - usually of a darker nature. Various intellectual topics were explored and would serve as a basis and inspiration for countless films in the generations to come. I like to classify The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as an early approach to psychological horror.

The sets are constructed in a very angular and abstract fashion; slanted rooftops and doorways in abundance. There are several instances of deep shadows in contrast with lighter tones. At first glance, it may seem absurd to compare the various visual styles in black and white film stock - but they do exist. If you're familiar with film noir, it was a product of this early movement. Despite my praises of historical importance, I found the pacing of this film a bit slow. I still prefer Nosferatu but the artistic direction is entirely different - 'Cabinet it's worth seeing for that alone.

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