johnlink ranks DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI (1920)

I’d always heard of this film, and in fact have owned the DVD for about six or seven years, but just never had gotten through it. I had put it on my laptop on a flight from LA to RI one time, but after ten minutes realized it needed more attention than the crammed confines of an airplane allowed. So, I finally got back to it today.

I watched DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI (THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI) (1920) on 12.9.10. It was my first (full) viewing of the film. WATCH THE FULL MOVIE HERE though there are some annoying advertisements throughout.

The version I have of this isn’t the cleanest, nicest version. In fact, I think the YOUTUBE version I linked to above is a nicer cut of the print. Obviously, the clearer you can see, the better. But for this film, you really need to make sure it is as good a print as possible. Often mentioned as the first true horror film, CALIGARI comes from the German Experessionist movement. The visuals are absolutely stunning, despite the fact that most of the scenes were clearly shot on the same stage with thrown together sets.

This film also contains one of the earliest ‘twist’ endings, which I won’t spoil in case you’re looking to hunt this down. There are some absolutely stunning visual shots, such as when the somnambulist (sleepwalker) steals the girl and escapes up an angular, jutting road.

So this film is absolutely important to the history of cinema. If you’re a fan of the horror genre, check it out. It only runs 70 minutes, and while it isn’t as enjoyable as Lang’s METROPOLIS, it has some solid moments. Don’t expect to be scared though.

If you are a casual movie viewer, this probably isn’t the film for you. Many of the shots linger (even by silent film standards) and the pace can be painfully slow. I know that saying so probably revokes my Film Historian membership card (which is alright, since I don’t have one anyway). But the fact of the matter is, that this is a slow, plodding, unscary horror film. Important? Absolutely. No doubt. It will forever hold an historic place in the annals of cinema. But if this is the first silent film a person tries to watch, it won’t have the impact of the aforementioned METROPOLIS or something Keaton or Chaplin.

The acting is fair, but not spectacular. The writing (really the plot, since the title cards would be translated anyway) is average until a decent twist in the end. This film is all about the visual; and why the visual is the way it is, which gets revealed in the end.





~ by johnlink00 on December 10, 2010.

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