Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Cabinet of Dr. Calligari: Review

Fig. 1

‘The Cabinet of Dr Calligari’ directed by Robert Wiene in 1920 is the ultimate example of German expressionist film with extreme architecture and heavy use of chiaroscuro lighting to set the scene for possible the first horror movie.Wiene deploys a radical dreamscape of macabre lighting, Gothic make-up, and a boldly disjointed set design to form a twisting suspense story about an evil doctor who exploits a sleepwalker in order to perform serial acts of murder’ (Smithy 2011) The Setting, lighting, make-up and acting in this film are the basis on which almost every horror movie is based on today and is regarded as the father of horror.

‘The Cabinet of Dr Calligari’ is a film which did not intend on creating a believable world in which everything could be recognised; instead the setting is designed to reflect the state of the main character Francis’ mind. ‘Hans Janowitz and Robert Wiene were inspired by a real-life murder and their intent was to show a distorted world on screen. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari was the first film in cinema to offer a subjective depiction of events on screen – ie. what was seen on screen was not real, it was not a documentary-like depiction of reality, it was a subjective simulation of it.’ (Schieb 1999) In doing so they created a world in which every was representative of a characters state of mind, in this case Francis is scared and confused and this is shown through the obscurely shaped architecture, the only time we can see normal or near normal architecture is when we arrive at the mental asylum, which suggests that this place is the only real aspect of this characters world, which we soon find out is true.

 ‘…from all these examples of visual style used in the film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, it is able to say that this German Expressionist film has proved itself that besides demonstrating the reality, this film can also present efficiently distinctive expressionist visual style by which character’s internal state of mind is literally represented, relating to the illustrated theme of madness, insanity and human’s subconscious’ (Kolokoz 2009) This visual style when on to define German film throughout the 1920’s and further still to setting the foundations for German Expressionist films and definitively changed the course of film making.


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  1. First one down - and it's good - but some style tips: take a look at the 'Do's and Don'ts' in the Rough Guide to Written Assignments on myUCA, especially number 11 - which I feature below. When you use a quote, consider introducing them into the flow of your writing - so, for example...

    As Robert Schieb observes, "Hanz Janowitz and Robert Wiene..."

    and then, following the quote and the Harvard citation, consider unpacking the content of the quote - showing that you understand its content and then applying that understanding to your discussion... See below for another example.

    11: Unpack your quotes /demonstrate your knowledge/define your terms!

    Some students use quotes in their assignments but let them ‘hang around’ – like especially invited dinner guests who end up with nothing to contribute to the conversation.

    Consider this statement:

    ‘As Kim Newman observes, ‘Splice shares Cronenberg’s fascination with
    body horror’.

    Okay – but Cronenberg who? Body horror what?’ And Newman’s point is? And the point of you choosing this quote and using it in this context is...?

    Consider instead:

    ‘As Kim Newman observes, ‘Splice shares Cronenberg’s fascination with
    body horror’ (Newman 1989:76). Here, Newman refers to Canadian director, David Cronenberg, whose early films - Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977) and The Fly (1986) among others - are preoccupied with themes of bodily disintegration and infection. Of his 1979 film, The Brood (1979), David J. Schow noted, ‘Cronenberg turns our private terrors of the flesh into horrid, visceral manifestations’. (Schow
    1986:102) Splice’s depiction of unstable and evolving flesh exploits similar anxieties regarding the body’s capacity to shock and surprise.’

    You must unpack the quote into its important elements, define them where necessary and thereby demonstrate your knowledge of the concepts encompassed. Then you apply the content to your own discussion in a proactive way: i.e. you use the quote to enrich, advance and corroborate your argument. Quotes have no inherent value of their own – they only become significant when they’re used to illuminate your subject further.

  2. Thanks Phill I'll try to work on my writing more in the future. On a seperate subject though im not down on the creative partner list, insted Aaron is listed twice so I'm assuming I'm partnered with either Aaron, Callum or Gabriel. Coud you sort this please