The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari- Herlihy

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” intersect in multiple instances, both aesthetically and contextually. By watching this film, we were exposed to one of the first horror films and early dramatic film effects.

Plato’s philosophy influenced the way 20th century audience’s interpreted films. Plato argues that people often believe they are seeing the realities of the world but are just seeing shadows or images of reality instead. He says that it is as though we are prisoners who cannot turn their head from the cave wall in front of us. We only see the projected image, but do not recognize them as shadows.

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Still from “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (0:45:17)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari uses jagged images, obscure angles, and vivid lighting to tell the story of a hypnotist who manipulates Cesare to do terrible acts. I assume the changes in color were to represent time of day. The music was sharp, and it punctuated plot points. I thought it was interesting how the title cards used an uneven script to guide the audience from one scene to the next, unlike traditional silent films. The film uses shadows to project the more gruesome scenes.

Like Caligari’s control on Cesare, filmmakers control the audience. In a way, we are hypnotized by the images and special effects onscreen. Like the prisoners, we don’t know what to expect and are forced to accept the reality before us. Being a German Expressionism film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a shadow of the greater message about German government. However, as viewers, we are unlikely to see beyond the aesthetics and comprehend the reality of the film.


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2 Responses to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari- Herlihy

  1. mediaphiles says:

    LOVE that you addressed the color changes of the film–the intentions can only be guessed, but I think it’s valid to assume changes of day, but I also think it was meant to evoke certain moods as well. Your last paragraph drawing parallels between post-war Germans and the allusion to the prisoners of Plato’s Cave – only wish the reading had been incorporated a bit more since it was so relevant to your review!

    -Meg Schmit

  2. marymdalton says:

    Meg raises good points about the color tinting. Nicely done!

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