Next on Netflix: Silent film to make you scream
It’s getting close to Halloween, which means that you can start breaking into the horror movies and eating entire bags of mini candy bars without judgment. Netflix has some really cool horror stuff in its Instant Watch, and I’ll spend the next few weeks letting you know what’s worth watching.
This week, I’m recommending “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” It was made in 1920, so it’s going to be stuffy and lame, right? Actually, this is one of the most eerie movies I’ve ever seen. Rather than focusing on jumps and shock value, the movie is creeping and slow, letting its weirdness seep in. It’s also got one of the first twist endings in cinema, beating Shyamalan to the punch by, you know, about 80 years (No, nobody was dead the whole time, and Bruce Willis is nowhere to be found in this story).
Dr. Caligari himself keeps a strange, zombie-like man named Cesare as a captive. Cesare supposedly has the power to predict the future, but Cesare’s prophecies are not always pleasant. The protagonist, Francis, must try and figure out just who Dr. Caligari is, before his own beloved fiancée falls victim to Cesare’s spookiness.
The reality that comes to light at the movie’s end is utterly bizarre, but the entire film is surreal, from the strange and crooked sets that seem too big or small or tilted for the characters, to the jolting movements of the actors. Many silent films are over-acted, in order to get emotion across without the subtlety of voice tones. But the atmosphere of the movie isn’t the usual hyper-movement of a silent film–even the original “The Phantom of the Opera” lacks the total otherwordliness of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” As you watch, you feel yourself being pulled into an alternate universe that feels somewhat off.
As with all silent movies, reading will be involved. Don’t let that discourage you, though—this movie is as beautiful as it is freakish. There will be plenty to look at besides captions.