Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

In the film Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, we first meet the character of Cesare at the carnival when Dr. Caligari wakes him after twenty three years. He opens the cabinet where he is asleep and we see a man dressed in all black with a stark white face and black circle around his eyes and black lipstick. The audience is first is presented with the horror that is to come throughout the rest of the film.

In silent films, such as Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the director must use the sets, costumes, and make-up to convey many of the personalities and emotions of the characters. The sets in this film are very bizarre and eerie with the many shadows which are painted directly on to the set, which looked like theater stage. The sizes of the props on the stage were very exaggerated. When the clerk and the police were sitting at desks, they were significantly smaller, having to climb up the chair to actually sit on it. The background of the town during the carnival seemed much smaller than it would have been in actuality. Many of the “props” like fliers were painted right on to the set, rather than having the tangible item. The characteristics of the sets brings the audience into the strangeness of the story of which they are watching.

The costumes and make-up, like the sets, are very exaggerated. Around the eyes of some of the characters there is very thick black circles which draws the attention of the viewer. The contrast between the painted white faces and the black around their eyes accentuate the feelings of the characters because the viewer is focusing on the eyes and what they are saying about the character. The costumes are used to describe the traits of the characters. Jane was dressed in a white, flowing gown that showed her innocence while Dr. Caligari’s cape, top hat and mesmerizing  glasses alluded to his twisted villainy. The sets, costumes, and makeup help the audience understand the context of the film.

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