“I’m reveling in the rediscovery of German expressionist films. There’s an intensity to the art created by this group that can be overwhelming, and nothing can appeal to me more. The last movie score was for F. W. Murnau’s classic, Nosferatu. The Veil Of Thorns scored version has been downloaded five thousand times and streamed almost twice that.
This one is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (original title: Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari), the 1920 silent film directed by Robert Wiene from a screenplay written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer.
With my tendency to paint using dozens of layers of glazes, record five hundred track songs and other such monstrosities, I find it liberating creatively to set strict limits for a project, as it tends to focus me, and that’s the appeal Dogme 95 has for me. Not that different from creating Blackmetal in the classic “Necro” vein…
The approach was inspired by the Dogme 95 manifesto. Now, using so much technology probably makes it anathema to its adherents, but my mode of working is never pure, but, Harmony Korinne fanatic that I am, I feel an affinity to the movement. I had several limitations in doing this, as my hard drive is almost full, and I’ll be needing to send a bunch of large image files out in the coming week. Therefore, my first rule was only to use sounds I already had on my hard drive. This was easy, as what I have taking up space are the audio tracks from the Veil Of Thorns album I’ve just completed. What you’ll hear is 90% vocals with much less processing than it sounds like.
Secondly, I gave myself a timelimit of eight hours to create and sync the audio to the movie file.
As with the Nosferatu score, I set limits in creating the score for “The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari”, though I didn’t confine myself to the sound files I already had on my hard drive this time. I spent a day creating blocks of sound, using mostly cello, violin and voice, with some added fx and drumloops here and there. Otherwise the whole score was created on the fly, in realtime. In fact, it took four times longer to render the movie than it took me to score it.” –P. Emerson Williams.
The film tells the story of the deranged Doctor Caligari and his faithful somnambulist Cesare and their connection to a string of murders in a German mountain village, Holstenwall. Caligari presents one of the earliest examples of a motion picture “frame story” in which the body of the plot is presented as a flashback, as told by Francis.
The narrator, Francis, and his friend Alan visit a carnival in the village where they see Dr. Caligari and Cesare, whom the doctor is displaying as an attraction. Caligari brags that Cesare can answer any question he is asked. When Alan asks Cesare how long he has to live, Cesare tells Alan that he will die tomorrow at dawn — a prophecy which turns out to be fulfilled.
Francis, along with his girlfriend Jane, investigate Caligari and Cesare, which eventually leads to Jane’s kidnapping by the somnambulist. Caligari orders Cesare to kill Jane, but the hypnotized slave relents after her beauty captivates him. He carries Jane out of her house, leading the townsfolk on a lengthy chase. Francis discovers Caligari is the head of the local insane asylum, and with the help of his colleagues discovers he’s obsessed with the story of a previous Doctor Caligari, who used a somnabulist to murder people as a traveling act.
Critics worldwide have praised the film for its Expressionist style, complete with wild, distorted set design—a striking use of mise en scène. Caligari has been cited as an influence on films noir and horror films; it is also often seen as one of the first horror films, a model for directors for many decades (including Alfred Hitchcock).