Friday, 17 February 2017

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari: or Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari.

16th February, 2017.

Have you ever heard of an actor called Conrad Veidt?

German chap, so you know.

Who’d done well for himself in German cinema and theatre: until he fled Germany before World War 2, as his wife was Jewish.

I had: but, in all honesty, could claim to have seen a film he appears in.

Oh, I know he crops up in Casablanca.

I’ve not actually seen it, though: yes, I know that’s possibly a hanging offence.

But there you go.

Sue me … !


At any rate?

At any rate, and just to re-iterate?

I’ve never actually seen a film with Conrad Veidt in it.

Not for lack of interest, either: more a lack of time, money … 

And possibly motivation, as well.

Tonight, though?

Tonight, though, I had a night off.

A desire to see a film.

And a copy of a film — with Conrad Veidt in a key role — that I’d been interested in for some time.

The film … ?

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari: or Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari, in the original German.

I wanted to catch it, not because Veidt’s appeared in the key role of Cesare.

But because the film has something of a reputation … 


The film opens: by introducing us to Francis — Friedrich Feher — who tells his unnamed, elderly, companion that the won who’s just passed them by is his fiancée, Jane, played by Lil Dagover.

It seems they have been through a lot.

The story shifts in to flashback mode.   And shows us Francis, and his old friend, Alan, deciding to go to a local fair.

A fair?   Where they’re drawn to a sideshow run by Dr Caligari (Werner Krauß), complete with his cabinet.

A cabinet containing the sleepwalker, Cesare (Veidt) … who, on cue?

Predicts Alan’s death, the following morning.

Needless to say, that’s the second mysterious death in the area … 


Seemingly tied to Cesare … and the mysterious showman, Dr Caligari


Now … 

Am I pleased to have seen The Cabinet of Dr Caligari?   And was my time and money well spent?

I think … that I can say yes.

Last question first, shall we?

My source for tonight’s film?   Was a blu-ray copy of the film that I picked up from Amazon: and one that seemed to come with quite a few extras, as well.

All of that for reasonable £9·99p, for a dual format film: containing identical content on both blu-ray and DVD.

Which seems reasonable: to me, at least.

On top of that … ?

My usual process of turning the blu-ray into something I could watch on my Apple TV — ripping the disc with MakeMKV, then turning the resulting .mkv into an .m4v with Handbrake — went well.

I’m just thankful I ripped the subtitles as part of the process.

My German’s not good!


The film itself?

Yes … 

I’ve walked away from a film, tonight: that tells us a story of a man who’s gone mad.

And spun a complex, coherent story, out of his delusions, surroundings, and fellow patients: emphasising these with it’s by now famous set design.

AND leaves us giving the director of the asylum — who Francis has turned into the evil doctor of the title — a second glance at the film’s ending: when he tells us he knows how to cure his patient.

I’ll try not to say much … but the phrase “You must become Caligari,” is pivotal towards the end of Act five.

All told?

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is the first film to try and project a person’s inner trauma onto the big screen: much in the same way Franklin, Gothika, and many others do.

Not every one will be interested in cinematic history.

Those of us that do … ?

Will find The Cabinet of Dr Caligari worth watching.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari


Olga Nunez Miret said...

A fascinating film indeed. In the European film course I was teaching assistant on we showed quite a few German films of the era (Nosferatu, that's also well-worth a watch, Metropolis, of course, M (M is a fantastic film. If you've ever watched Peter Lorre, who again crops up in Casablanca, yes, hanging offence, he is incredible in that movie, and the movie itself is a masterpiece), but I must say Caligari is one difficult to forget. I remember many of the students had never watched a silent film but seemed to connect with it. Hitchcock's 'The Lodger' that I hadn't watched before I also enjoyed. I didn't expect much of it, but it already has the Hitchcock touch.
Now, back to work before my friends come up with a plan...

Nik Nak said...

You’re right, there, Olga!

It’s quite something to catch, I know that much: and the restoration work done for this version is helps.

I ALSO know I got to thinking that Nosferatu, Casablanca and M, are films I’m going to have to see: once I’ve got time!