Caligari Film

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【UNDERSTANDING MOVIES】Mise en Scene in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Thursday, Jul 23, 2009 2:33PM / Standard Entry
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is one of the first and major examples of the German Expressionism film movement, which features a dark and twisted style of film making. The plots and stories of the Expressionist movement films often deal with madness, insanity, betrayal, and other sinister topics.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is known for its particular and unusual settings. All the scenes are distorted and the objects in them changed in odd ways. For example, a normal window has an abnormal shape. Lines and other shapes are not regular even though the viewer can still understand what they are. Moreover, the lighting including the shadowing is drawn on the background screen directly, which makes the picture look unnatural. The subtitles and its background are also odd and bent. All of these techniques were used to make people recognize everyday objects but understand that it is part of the characters’ imaginations (or the director’s imagination). The director is leading people into his imagination, buried in the mazy town, fragmented frame, the twisted mirror, sloping walls, lopsided doors, the rough road, exaggerated tree branches, etc.
One interesting note is the scenes where Alan, who seems the most “normal” of all the characters, is introduced. He is in a room with a chair that looks normal—it has straight lines and is the right size. But he looks out the window, which is itself a twisted rectangle, and the audience can then understand that outside it is a dark fantasy world.
The make-up is an another important component part of this film’s mise en scene. Characters’ costumes look like the precursors to costumes found in modern horror films. There are sooty rings around dark eyes, pale complexions, and high-contrast lipstick on all of the…...

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