Thrills! Chills! Dramatic Eye Makeup!

I was hoping to have this up sooner, but you know how life catches up with you. Good news is that at the closing of this year I’ll have my BA. Along with all the holiday stuff,and here I am to discuss a fantastic non-holiday film that’s screening this Saturday, the 17th. The screening is at 7PM and there’s no admission. Just stop by and have a good time!

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a quintessential German Expressionist film. The other one of course being Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Many aesthetic elements of Caligari can be seen in today’s alternative visual culture. One look can give you a clue as to where Tim Burton got some of his inspiration. If you’ve seen the movie, you could think that Edward from Edward Scissorhands is the long lost relative of Cesare; the original black clad man in dramatic eye makeup and tragic predicament. We may also blame this film for some of the antics of M. Night Shyamalan, as the first film to use the twist ending that is so cliché nowadays. Actually, blame the German censor board at the time, they were the ones who thought the initial ending of Caligari was too political.

There is something endearing about Caligari though. The stage-esque painted sets add to the dreamlike atmosphere. Buildings have a distorted, crooked appearance. Alleyways feel extremely narrow with these surreal structures. These visuals are known as being a key feature in German Expressionist film. Rejecting reality to focus on the surreal and fantastic, as well as exploring more cerebral themes like insanity. Much of the acting carried this aesthetic as well through distorted movements and facial expressions to express the characters.

German Expressionism began before the first World War, but boomed in the 1920s. Germany’s film industry had to get creative as the country grew culturally isolated with many outside films banned. Economic instability also contributed to the popularity of film as entertainment. Money was practically useless, so people spent it on entertainment. This isolation, as well as the popularity of the German film industry, created a distinct style that soon gained international attention.

The extreme surreal and fantastic only reigned for a brief period, but became a major influence on the genres of horrr, and noir, as well as science fiction to some extent. Many of these elements moved to America as the nazis took power and members of Germany’s film industry took sanctuary in Hollywood. While many of the surreal distortions disappeared, American film experimented with elements such as light and shadow as means of conveying an unsettling atmosphere. Some of these cinematography elements can still be seen today in many films. Other directors, besides Burton, who have been influenced include Alfred Hitchcock, Werner Herzog and Ridley Scott.

If you want to see what you’re in for, check the Facebook page. There’s a link to the full movie. Gotta love public domain.