Friday, 13 June 2014

THE CABINET OF Dr. CALIGARI

ROBERT WEINE
Germany/1919/B&W/Silent/60mns.

An extraordinary film, in terms of theme and from, which has a story backeted within another story.

Apparently it is the story of mad magician Caligari, who hypnotises a somnabulist to carry out his murders. He is ultimately found to be the director of an asylum, who has gone mad in his greed for power and his obsessive efforts to re-enact a 18th century showman's murders by proxy.  But at the end of the film we see that the narrator, who so convincingly tells the story, is himself insane and Dr. Caligari is the benevolent director of the asylum who now understands the case of the young man.

The narrative significance of Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is in its simultaneously present viewpoints : that the narrator is mad and story is partiallly or totally illusional; or that, as is assumed thoughout most of the film, the story is true.  This play with reality, raises metaphysical questions and problems of contradictory understanding relevant for any period of human history: at the same time the mirrors the inherent tensions of the collective german psyche of that period.