After we watched "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" in class last week, we discussed the expressionism movement. "Dr. Caligari" is a German expressionist film, and that was evident with the presence of distinct expressionism characteristics. A typical trait of expressionism is to present the scene from a subjective perspective by distorting whatever is being portrayed. This is done to evoke strong emotions and moods. This concept is very obvious in the film. The set designs and backgrounds of each scene were wild and distorted, as well as some of the actors' appearances. "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" is not the only expressionist topic we have discussed. Lynd Ward also incorporates expressionist styles in his wood carvings in order to tell his wordless stories. Take for example, Ward's illustration in "Vertigo" of the distorted body on the ground. As mentioned in class, the body is distorted and appears slightly mangled. This is obviously done to illustrate the fact that the man is hurt, but in expressionism terms, it is done to portray the distortion of the body in order to evoke emotion from readers. "Dr. Caligari" made me more aware of expressionism characteristics, and I am now able to recognize them in other works, such as Ward's "Vertigo."
So during last weeks class discussion after the film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" we hit on some points that we found stood out to us in the movie. The point was made how angles throughout the film were oddly placed such as the houses and streets. After rereading "Vertigo" I remembered how we discussed the odd shaped angles throughout it has well. In "Vertigo" we had talked about the image with the tilted mailbox and what the meaning behind that could be. The idea that was brought up was that during the 1920's how the U.S mail was quite important; so the tilting of the mailbox could symbolize the idea of a corrupt era of the constitution/institutions. In Dr. Caligari the film showed how the insane asylum grew outward and there was a randomly shaped sun in the middle of the floor. This perhaps could have symbolized everything that was going on in the film revolved around the insane asylum and that there was a promise of recovery at the end of ones journey there.In all, being able to pick out the small details such has how the image is shaped can turn out to have a greater meaning behind it. With learning how to look deeper into the detailing of the works we have read and watched, I feel I have a better grasp on what to look for when it comes to finding the deeper meaning within.
Connecting Understanding Comics with "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", I believe we can find a correlation between chapter 5 and the film. In a silent film, much like with comics, imagery is crucial, evident when McCloud states, "The idea that a picture can evoke an emotional or sensual response in the viewer is vital to the art of comics" (McCloud: 121). Applying this principle to the film, it is then possible to understand why the art direction was executed in such a way, not to mention to the choice of font and colors when showing text. Though the backgrounds were never "normal" when we were in the recollection of the protagonist, they did differ at times, and each time evoked a different emotion or sensation in the viewer to accompany the music and action on screen. In Chapter Five, McCloud discusses Expressionism as the inability to repress internal turmoil (McClould: 122). The internal turmoil of the film's protagonist is blatantly symbolized by contorted and irregular surroundings, and perhaps presenting the world as he sees it. When you think about it, if we had "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" laid out in front us in images side-by-side with the text juxtaposed with the pictures, it would be an expressionist comic.
I think the connection between Dr. Caligari and Vertigo is remotely striking. Even though one is a woodcut and the other is a silent film, their similarities are many. For example, for us readers/viewers to understand the real emotions being portrayed at that specific time, Ward's depictions and the actors in the 'The cabinet of Dr. Caligari' show excessive facial expressions emphasizing what is left out in words. The emphasis put on shapes in both are also noteworthy. Whereas, Dr. Caligari has all different types of shapes ingrained in the background, Vertigo has those shapes as the picture itself. These shapes help to describe more of the tone and emotions of the scene by following McCloud's theory on the meanings of different shapes.
As I reviewed Vertigo again for class, I was finding that as much as I wanted to be connecting Dr Caligari to Vertigo I kept going back to Frankenstein. I think that the story itself of Dr Caligari relates much more to Frankenstein, but I can see how the style of imagery between Vertigo and the film are very similar. (I never saw the Frankenstein movie, so I can't comment on that comparison.) The bold, unusual angles of some scenes is the thing that stands out the most to me. Both Dr Caligari and Vertigo use these in ways that are almost subtle, and even though they're not realistic it's like they're trying to be.
"expressionism as it came to be called, didn't start as a scientific art, but rather as an honest expression of the internal turmoil these artists just could not repress." (McCloud 122) This quote explains a lot of what i was thinking while watching Dr. Caligari. i felt like the movie was less interested in realistic scenery shots and true life plot lines and more interested in getting the feeling of madness across in the movie as a whole. The movie could have simply followed the happenings of a crazy person but it would have had a different effect. the expressionist way of doing the film allows the viewer to be more involved with the emotions. the scenery disorients us and the characters confuse us and every little aspect of the film is meant to give the feeling of crazed and insane. at the end of the movie the viewers themselves can't even be sure who the crazy one is.