Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 1920

Posted: January 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

In the 1920 film, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, one of the most climactic scenes is when one of the antagonists, Dr. Caligari, introduces Cesare to the audience for the first time. At the town fair, Dr. Caligari calls all the people for their attention to see Cesare, the Somnambulist awaken after 25 years. He is revealed to the people at the fair and then Dr. Caligari tells the audience Cesare can predict the future. A man named Alan then asks Cesare how long he will live and Cesare tells him he has until the break of dawn.  This point in the movie was very climactic in that there was a feeling of foreshadowing. In other words, after this scene, it can be predicted that Alan, along with several other people was in a great deal of trouble.

The make-up and costumes were ideal for the feeling of the movie as a whole. For instance, since this movie is a horror film and its job is to frighten the audience, Cesare was displayed with scary make-up and an all-black costume. His face was painted yellow and he had on black lipstick and extremely thick eyeliner. Dr. Caligari’s role was also to be and old, creepy man so he wore a long black cloak with a large top hat. His hair also appeared to be painted on his head which is interesting because today we often see actors use hair dye instead. It makes one wonder what materials were used in movies in the 1920’s compared to what is used today. In addition, most of the men in the town wore black suits and old-style hats. The clothing the men wore in Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was actually a good representation of what men wore during that time. As far as the women in this film, they wore long skirts and shirts that covered their entire bodies. The conservative clothing of these women also accurately represented the clothes women wore during this time.

The sets of the film were very much like that of a theatre set. For instance, the back walls in various scenes showed that decorations were painted on. For example, plants and windows were painted on the back walls. Also, there were random shapes and designs that were used as decorations on the floor and ceiling. There were several cutouts used in the background such as cutouts of trees and rocks. The use of curtains was also a very important aspect to the settings. Curtains were used on the rides and tents at the fair during the scene in which Dr. Caligari was showing the audience Cesare for the first time.  The use of shadows was significant because it enhances the dark, eerie ambiance of the movie. There was also a flickering effect throughout the movie as if a candle was the source of light. The flickering effect is still used in today’s horror movies such as Paranormal Activity which means it must be an effective tactic to in horror films. The music played during the movie essentially can tell a story in itself. As the scene build up, the music grows louder and more intense, whereas during non-climactic scenes, the music is softer and slower. Finally, the set changed colors depending on how much light was present. The scene would turn yellow when someone turned the lights on inside or if it was bright outside. On the other hand, the scene was black and white when it was dark inside or outside.

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