Film - Feature | December 9 | 4:30-5:40 p.m. | Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, released in 1920, probably remains the ultimate expression of narrative through set design; even the exquisitely chiseled face of Conrad Veidt seems cut to reflect the angled shadows and interiors through which he somnambulistically slips, under the control of the evil Caligari. The films tableau-like backgrounds emerged from the Sturm expressionist group, which included painters Walter Röhrig and Walter Reimann and the designer Hermann Warm, all of whom contributed to the design. With roots in fantasy, romanticism, and medieval stories, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is also intensely modern, and, like the best science fiction, carries a warning for the future. Its chilling tale of mind control and murder was written a decade before Hitlers rise by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer, who shared a hatred for militarism and authoritarianism. A prologue and epilogue attached at the insistence of producer Erich Pommer helped to reroute Janowitz and Mayers charged political themes into a psychological (and pseudoscientific) chronicle of personal madness.
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