A Critique of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and The Last Laugh

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A Critique of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and The Last Laugh Both The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, produced by Robert Wiene, and The Last Laugh, produced by F.W. Murnau, are excellent examples of films created in the golden age of German cinema. These two films make use of the camera in order to see inside a character's mind, a technique greatly refined throughout German Expressionism. The ideas, feelings, thoughts, and dreams of a character are carefully shown in a first-person view, and the tone and mood of the characters and plot are mirrored in the surrounding environment. The German films of this time, as well as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Last Laugh, were either fantasy or psychological type films. The fantasy type of film was distinguished by the revolving of action around the strange and bizarre, as was portrayed by Wiene. The psychological film's action, on the other hand, revolves around the particulars of the characters, such as the importance of the doorman's job and his status in Murnau's film. A discussion of these two films and their place in German cinema is the topic of this critique. The use of the camera as well as the overall direction in the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, released in 1919, is unrefined to say the least, but yet it is considered to be a stellar example of German fantasy filmmaking. The reason for this is due to the fact that the film leaves an eerie impression on the viewer, due to the disturbing scenery and plot. The set was constructed in an upsetting manner; that is, the doors and windows and even walls of houses are crooked and skewed from all others, nothing stands quite straight up, the actors wore excessive makeup, and shadows filled the streets with ominous presence. The audience may notice this oddity, but it does not fully sink in as to why the scenes were arranged this way until it is realized that an insane man has told the entire story, and that it is all a fabrication of his mind that has been shown through his eyes by the camera. The psychological film The Last Laugh, first released in 1924, contrasts the complex plot of Wiene's film and the fantasy films. Murnau's plot, like those that typified the psychological films, was remarkably simple. A doorman looses his job and, with it, his dignity; in the end he regains his lost dignity when he inherits a millionaire's fortune.

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