20 February 2011

Movies: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari x2 (1920 version and 2005 version)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - 1920 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0010323/
Plot: Dr Caligari has a cabinet. He has a sideshow tent with the cabinet inside. People receive predictions from the somnambulist contents of the cabinet of their future; people get stabbed; people go crazy. Oooh you're so evil Dr Caligari.
Overall this ends up quite an ambitious tale. Unfortunately being silent really makes one work very hard to figure out what is going on. The story is sort of a bookend thing - where a young gentleman is explaining to an older guy what happened in his life, we get to watch what happened as he's telling the story, then we return to the young gentleman and old guy for the finale.

Best bet- for the modern viewer the 2005 version is more understandable. If you feel compelled to see the original it is almost worth seeing the 2005 version first to help 'fill in the gaps'. And if you don't feel like watching the 1920 version after just watching the 2005, you won't really miss out on anything but the 'classicness' of the 1920.

But I can also see why this is a classic. Very visually stunning for the era, cutting edge experimental.


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - 2005 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0441741/
(Reworking my original coverage of this movie)
This is the 2005 remake of the 1920's German flick.
Plot: Exactly the same as the 1920 version.
Crazy thing they did, but really did work: It looks like the 1920s film, only with sound and a lot more dialog. This remake was very faithful to the original visuals and the story - almost shot-per-shot. There were some embellishments, and some cuts, but overall very faithful. The flow of this film, most of the camera work (black-and-white, framing, cuts, etc) felt almost 1920-ish, even the casting and makeup of the actors closely matched or directly copied the 1920 version. The sets all looks like the 1920 flick's sets, and from what I've read some were actual original movie footage green-screened in. And, knowing the story, I completely understand why the sets look the way they do. To understand why the sets look all perspective-skewed like they do, however, does require watching the whole movie.

I'm even more impressed with this remake after seeing the original.

In addition the pretty authentic looking 20s feel coupled with modern sound (dialog, effects, music) this movie still tells its compelling story from start to finish. Sure there's some iffy acting in some places, but I'm not sure if that's to mimic the actions of the people in the original flick or what. Some lines are over-delivered, like the difference between a play acted on stage vs. on film. Again I'm not sure if that is on purpose or not. But it's easy to get past.
If you have any affection for old black-and-white movies, or wouldn't mind watching a modern remake of one done up in the old style, this is definitely worth watching at least once. The movie stayed compelling enough to want to watch and finish.
And if watching the silent original seems it would be a little too daunting, but still enjoy a good story from 1920, watch this one. It's good enough for that.

(original post 2 Jun 2010)

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