Dr. Caligari and German Expressionism vs Buster Keaton's Our Hospitality and American Optimism
1) Dr. Caligari vs Buster Keaton
-two different worlds, therefore two different viewpoints
Buster Keaton 1923 comedy. Despite taking place shortly after WWI, the mood and atmosphere is happy, as America was untouched during WWI. Satire of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet story, Montagues and Capulets becomes McKay and Canfield family feud. The first letters are even alliteration to Romeo and Juliet’s family names. Unlike Shakespeare, the ending is happy, comedic, and light hearted, with the marriage of Willie and Virginia, and an ultimate end to the feud.
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
· one of the earliest, most influential and most artistically acclaimed German Expressionist films
· context: 50-60 million people died in WWI, Germany had to pay huge reparations
· dark atmosphere, full of creepiness
· story of the deranged Dr. Caligari and his sleepwalking Cesare and their connection to a string of murders in a German mountain village, Holstenwall.
· earliest examples of a motion picture "frame story": s a narrative technique whereby a main story is composed, at least in part, for the purpose of organizing a set of shorter stories, each of which is a story within a story—or for surrounding a single story within a story.
· the plot is presented as a flashback, as told by Francis.
· Francis and his friend Alan visit a carnival, where Dr. Caligari is showing off his somnambulist Cesare
· Caligari claims that Cesare can answer any question, Alan asks Cesare how long he has to live, Cesare says he will die tomorrow(prophecy which is later fulfilled)
- tendency of an artist to distort reality for an emotional effect in the viewer. The emotional effect is the most important, because cameras are becoming more prevalent, and they can depict reality more accurately than any painting, so arts turn to distortion.
-distorted reality as well as a depiction of the artist's mental state of being.
-"expressionism emphasized a given artist's emotional, intensely personal reactions; it was thus in contrast to the traditional view that an artist should strive faithfully to reproduce the natural appearance of the object or person being painted, sculpted, or written about."
-expresses feelings in an abstract way.
· painted lights and shadows directly on set walls and floors and background canvases, and to place flat sets behind the actors. story of a madman's fantasies filmed with starkly artificial sets made up cardboard backdrops or painted cubist shadow effectively suggested the disorientation of the storyteller's mind." "We see the world as the hero does. The world of the film is literally a projection of the hero's vision."
· with wild, distorted set design. Caligari has been cited as an influence on film noir, one of the earliest horror films, and a model for directors for many decades
· During the period of recovery following World War I, the German film industry was booming, but because of the hard economic times filmmakers found it difficult to create movies that could compare with the lush, extravagant features coming from Hollywood. The filmmakers of the German UFA studio developed their own style by using symbolism and arrangement of sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting to add mood and deeper meaning to a movie.
· German Expressionism "concentrated on a heavy use of light and dark contrasts, exaggeration, tilted angles, a dream like atmosphere"
· The extreme non-realism of Expressionism was short-lived, and it faded away but themes of Expressionism were integrated into later films of the 1920s and 1930s, resulting in an artistic control over the placement of scenery, light, and shadow to enhance the mood of a film.
· Anti-heroic (if not downright evil) characters at the center of the story...
· which often involves madness, paranoia, obsession and...
· is told in whole or in part from a subjective point of view.
· A primarily urban setting (there are exceptions, particularly in the case of Murnau), providing ample opportunity to explore...
· the criminal underworld...
· and the complex architectural and compositional possibilities offered, for example, by stairways and their railings, mirrors and reflecting windows, structures jutting every bit as vertically as they do horizontally so that...
· the director can play with stripes, angles and geometric forms sliced from the stark contrasts between light and shadow.
· · Shadows, in fact, can take on an ominous presence of their own think of the monster's shadow
· characters, have exaggerated make-up and costumes
· Caligari used startlingly distorted set design and make-up to create a warped reality. The goal of the whole process is to involve the viewer in the landscape of the characters', and indirectly the artists', minds. The style was ground-breaking, taking film from an art form that dealt almost solely in displaying reality to an art form that brings the viewer physical representations of emotion and theme.