The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is the first film by Germany to be an Expressionist film. Authorities of an avant-garde movement believed that by using Expressionism in films (as they did in paintings, theater, literature, and architecture) this might be a selling point in the international market. The film proved that to be true and because of its success other films in the Expressionist style soon followed.
Siegfried Kracauer discusses The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in his thesis. I will discuss what Kracauer states in his thesis. I will also discuss the changes made to the original story. Finally, I will state what the expressionist elements are in the film.
The film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, is written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer based upon their shared experiences. Kracauer states "Janowitz calls himself 'the father who planted the seed' and Mayer 'the mother who conceived and ripened it'" (347). Mayer chose his main character, the psychiatrist, to be like his archenemy during the war. Janowitz while skimming through a volume called Unknown Letters of Stendhal noticed the name of an officer named Caligari. He and Mayer liked that name for their character, so they used it. After that both authors finished writing the story and they submitted the script to Erich Pommer, chief executive of Decla-Bioskop an independent production company, who accepted it immediately. Pommer assigned Fritz Lang, an Austrian director, to film the story. Lang, going against the author's wishes, convinced Pommer to add a framing story to the film. Lang thought that by changing the reality frame it would enhance the Expressionistic elements of the mise-en-scene in the film. It also converts the body of the film from an antiauthoritarian story into the narration of a paranoid delusion. Robert Weine replaced Lang in the production of the film. He continued in Lang's footsteps and changed Janowitz and Mayer's original version.
The original story, by Janowitz and Mayer, tell the story of certain murders that happen in a fictitious town called Holstenwall. It ends with Caligari being strapped into a strait jacket. "Janowitz and Carl Mayer half intentionally stigmatized the omnipotence of a state authority. Manifesting itself in universal conscription and declarations of war" (Kracauer, 349). Kracauer states that Janowitz and Mayer feel that the German war government fit the prototype of that authority. Their character, Caligari, worships power and wants to satisfy his desire for domination. So Caligari stands for an unlimited authority. Cesare functions as a tool for Caligari's murders. "Janowitz, they had created Cesare with the dim design of portraying the common man who, under the pressure of compulsory military service, is drilled to kill and to be killed" (Kracauer, 349). The original version of the story is about real horrors. The version by Weine changes the story into a created illusion by a mentally...