Everyone you love is dead or crazy, Homegirl!

15 May

I don’t know if the handful of people following this blog enjoy German silent films from the Weimar Era, but if you do– you’re in luck! This is a movie review of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari), a German expressionist film from the 20s. It’s a great movie. You should watch it (then come back here and talk about how crazy awesome it is). ENJOY!

cesarSilent films are crazy.

German films are crazy.

The fusion of the two together is almost too much.

Almost.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari) is actually pretty brilliant. Once you embrace the over-the-top and the awesomely dramatic– you realize it is a pretty amazing film.

It opens, ideally enough, with two men sitting on a park bench shooting the breeze about what else– ghosts. One man admits that “spirits surround us on every side… they have driven me from hearth and home, from wife and child!” Without missing a beat– his friend tells him, “That is NOTHING– listen to THIS!”

There is nothing worse than your friend constantly one-upping you… except maybe being haunted by ghosts.

The camera fades in on Narrator (Francis)’s hometown which is quaint and idyllic aaaaaand a terrifying post-impressionist painting. All the buildings and streets are uneven and geometrically unsettling and everyone is cranky because they are forced to sit in wildly uncomfortable post-impressionistic furniture.

Narrator (Francis) is actually pretty boring.

Look at how evil I am!

Look at how evil I am!

What is awesome is Dr. Caligari and how amazingly sinister he looks. Dr. Caligari rocks every “bad-guy” motif there is. He is like the Penguin, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Voldemort rolled into one. And just in case you weren’t quite catching on to how awesomely evil he is– every time he comes into frame, the creepy music from LOST starts playing.

Back to narrator (Francis) for a cheerful interlude before everything goes to hell.

Narrator (Francis) and his friend encounter Jane. It is awkward. Narrator (Francis) then cheerfully (and rather bluntly) announces “We both love her, but no matter how she chooses, let us remain friends.” Awww… “Bros before hos” is alive and well in Germany. You think to yourself for a moment that this could have been an adorable little german sitcom– a goofy Three’s A Company… except for the murder.

caligari post impressionist

My world is a geometric hellscape! Living in a post-impressionist painting blows : (

Some citizen is murdered in his little post-impressionist home with (and I quote) a “strange pointed object.”

Ummm… do Germans not know what knives are?

Back to the dastardly Dr. Calgari who now has an exhibit at the fair: “Cesare, the Somnambulist!” Apparently, Cesare has been sleeping for his entire life but whatevs ‘cos he can also tell the future!

As long as that future involves your death and Cesare murdering you.du musst caligari werden

(The fortunes are kind of fixed in that way.)

Cesare then tells Narrator (Francis)’s friend his fortune. Narrator friend dies and Narrator (Francis) undergoes a very intense german grief– throwing himself onto every piece of post-impressionist furniture he has.

In a seemingly irrelevant scene, Jane’s father is missing. Where does she look for clues? The fair! (of course). Who does she enlist to help her find them? The police? Narrator (Francis)? Nope. She goes straight to the fair and asks a carny. Naturally. (Homegirl is not too bright).

The carny is Dr. Caligari! (Homegirl is going to die)!

The next scene is Jane asleep in her post-impressionist bed and Cesare is coming to kill her with a strange pointed object (a knife). Overcome by her beauty and innocence– he is unable to kill her and kidnaps her instead. Cue chase scene over post impressionist roofs and through post impressionist fields (because EVERY German movie has a chase/ mob scene).

I kidnapped her... because of true love... and because I'm CRAAAAAA-ZAAAAY!

I kidnapped her… because of true love… and because I’m CRAAAAAA-ZAAAAY!

After a hearty chase, Cesare dies of a fall and Jane becomes irrelevant again.

Narrator (Francis) and his band of police men (who follow him for some reason) renew their determination to capture Caligari! (This is after they let Caligari escape… because they are busy looking at a mannequin… Caligari just walks away. Seriously). Narrator (Francis) chases the carny to the insane asylum.

It seems to be a dead end until they find Caligari’s black magic books describing in detail the possibility of binding a somnambulist to your will and getting him to do horrid deeds that he would not otherwise do.

They then read his diary, which begins sinisterly enough: “Dear Diary…” (It’s nice to see that Caligari introduces murder using the same gripping narrative teenage girls do.)

He ends up admitting that he has bound a somnambulist to his will and made him do horrid deeds that he would not otherwise do.

Enter Caligari.

Surrounded by his peers who now know about his horrid crimes– Caligari attempts to escape by choking everyone who stands in his way. Now– I know that he is crazy, but I’m just saying– if you want to escape from a room– individual stranglings are probably the worst way to go.

He is sent to a post-impressionist hospital room for the rest of his days.

So now we have learned– “Things not to do in an insane asylum: act insane.”

There is a twist at the end of the film that makes the story much more awesome. None of this M. Night Shyamalan nonsense– it is a genuine twist and you see why this movie is in the pantheon of classic horror movies. This movie is where Tim Burton, Alfred Hitchcock, and Romero got their inspiration.

The entire movie is here (sadly without the artistic title cards) but if you want a quick taste of the style the movie was shot in, Rob Zombie also did a music video that was completely inspired by “Dr. Caligari.”

SO, in summation, German silent film is crazy… crazy awesome.

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2 Responses to “Everyone you love is dead or crazy, Homegirl!”

  1. Mandy July 6, 2013 at 5:18 am #

    TELL ME THE TWIST ENDING. TELL IT TO ME.

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