Scenography in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Prior to the War, Germany was in shambles and left people in a state of fear and confusion. During that time period, society needed to convey their feelings one way or another. From paintings, architecture, and sculptures; German expressionism was born. This genre broadly influenced many fields but it stands out in German Cinema. One of the prime examples of German Cinema is the 1920 film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Directed by Robert Weine, this film tells the story of a small German Town and the arrival of Dr. Caligari. Here he shows up at a carnival presenting his show, the somnambulist Cesare who can predict the future. Throughout the film, it shows the characters slowly lose the rationality and how their emotions start to waver all over the place. Being a silent film they relied on makeup, costume and over exaggerated movements to convey the message to the audience. However, one of the things that stood out was on the film was the scenography.

The production design of the scenography emitted the aesthetic of the German expressionism. The set consisted of extreme distortion in the design such as twisted branches, roads that lead to nowhere, uneven houses, inaccurate shapes, and angles. It is dominated with sharp forms, oblique and curved lines creating a certain mysterious and nightmarish feel in the film. The set designer played with the black and white colors to created shadows to create an environment and set the dark atmosphere of the characters.

Expressionism is about experimenting with the emotions and the perception of people. This film used hand-painted backdrops, obscure architecture, and inaccurate angles to create a narrative where they disconnect the audience from reality. The style of the film reflects the uneasiness and the state of mind that the characters portrayed. Truly, this film is a prime example of German Expressionism.

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