The Cabinet of Dr Caligary - Essay Example

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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the Depiction of the Mind Introduction From the opening credits it’s easy to see how American critiques could have confused The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) as cubist. The slanted and oblique patterns with the actors and directors names placed on top of them seem to represent a multitude of perspectives, and it isn’t until the movie begins that it’s clear they represent the uniform, expressionist agenda of a psychologically torn German psyche…
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Download file to see previous pages 72). The film seems to equally represent the disturbed German psyche and act as prescient element of the later Nazi regime. While there are clear links between the film and the mind, many prominent film theories conflict such a depiction. This essay examines how the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari complicates Munsterberg's the Photoplay and his discussion on attention, and Eisenstein's essays on Film Form through the physical depiction of the mind. Analysis Munsterberg’s theory of attention as articulated in the Photoplay considers the nature of film meaning in terms of viewer attention. In this context of understanding, he notes “Of all internal functions which create the meaning of the world around us, the most central is the attention. The chaos of the surrounding impressions is organized into a real cosmos of experience by our selection of that which is significant and of consequence” (Munsterberg). Here Munsterberg is indicating that rather than more subtle aspects of film expression, meaning is largely a factor of the viewer’s attention. When one considers such a theory in terms of Caligari there are a number of considerations. After the initial scene with Francis in the asylum the film opens onto the highly stylized Expressionist ‘mountains’ of the town featured in Francis’ story. The German Expressionist scenery is interesting to consider as it challenges the distinguishing features Munsterberg’s theory of attention. While the director incorporates the mountain backdrop as a functional element of setting, its distorted German Expressionist influence, while not constituting the main focus of attention, nevertheless greatly affects the meaning and tone of the scene. For instance, while it clearly exhibits a denotative aspect – mountain cutouts clearly denote mountains – one can also make the case that the mountain scenery is an entirely symbolic manifestation of Francis’ distorted paradigm. While for Munsterberg film meaning is largely linked to the viewer’s attention, Soviet theorist and director Sergei Eisenstein places the primary emphasis on montage. Eistenstein writes “Shot and montage are the basic elements of cinema. Montage has been established by the Soviet film as the nerve of cinema. To determine the nature of montage is to solve the specific problem of cinema” (Einstentein, p. 3). Even as such a perspective in terms of the highly experimental Russian cinema holds true, this view is complicated when applied to German Expressionist cinema. One considers that in Caligari it is not montage, but symbolism and scenery that greatly rely meaning. After Alan dies, Francis goes to the police. The mise-en-scene displays a large, winding staircase he must climb to speak with the officers who are positioned on extremely high-chairs. This is also echoed in the giant chair found in Alan’s apartment, expressionistically representing the overarching authority that looks down on the characters. When examining the authoritarian function of the chair, one might argued for the interpretation of the cultural object in terms of the hierarchical power structures that are inherent in society. The majority of the investigation is left to Francis who must relay to Jane the horrible news of Alan’ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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