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Alan: How long shall I live?
Cesare: Your time is short. You die at dawn.
Silent expressionism horror film made in 1920 Germany, starring Werner Krauss as the titular mad doctor and Conrad Veidt (the bad guy from Casablanca... oh, and the original Joker) as the fortune-telling sleepwalker Cesare, who lives inside the cabinet.
The film was made to metaphorically express the dangers of hospitals in World War I when "malingering" soldiers were confined in hospitals under their manipulative doctors.
This film is best-known for its extremely messed-up set design: all the angles are crooked, the shadows are painted onto the sets, and it's all made out of paper. More notably, some sets are twisted versions of World War I battlefields.
This movie is frequently homaged by music videos (see Rob Zombie's "Living Dead Girl" as well as "Otherside" of the Red Hot Chili Peppers). In 2005, it received an indie remake starring Doug Jones, of Pans Labyrinth fame, which digitally imposed the new actors onto the original set.
In addition to being the first psychological thriller, this movie also received one of the first-ever Viral Marketing campaigns for a movie: before its premiere, German streets were plastered with posters that read "Du mußt Caligari werden!" ("You must become Caligari!"), without telling you anything about the fact that they tied in to a movie.
This movie provides examples of various tropes, and subverts most of them by the end: Edit
- All Just a Dream
- And You Were There: Most of the characters turn out to have real-world counterparts hanging around the asylum.
- Art Shift: The parts that Francis is imagining have the famously psychotic set design some of which are twisted version of battlefields in World War I
- Bedlam House
- Bizarrchitecture: Good lord. It borders on Alien Geometries.
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Cesare
- Circus of Fear: probably the Trope Maker
- Cuckoo Nest
- Deranged Animation: despite being live-action, it's more stylized than your average cartoon
- Distressed Damsel: Jane, when Cesare attempts to kidnap her.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Cesare and Francis
- Empathic Environment
- Excessive Evil Eyeshadow: Cesare wears black makeup underneath his eyes.
- Executive Meddling: A benevolent example. The Twist Ending was originally the idea of a studio exec.
- Not all that benevolent, at least in terms of the film. After that Twist Ending, a man would come out after the film ended and reassure the audience that everything was going to be alright.
- Framing Device: Francis and the old man sitting in the courtyard.
- Fridge Brilliance: There's a very good chance that Francis killed Alan, and that's why he's in the nuthouse.
- German Expressionism: the Trope Maker, or at least, Trope Codifier
- Homage: it's received countless, which eventually caused the Weird Al Effect
- I Just Knew: in the remake (subverted: he only knows because he's imagining the whole thing)
- Iris Out: A common trope in the day, and used many times in this film. The one that ends the film is particularly chilling.
- Kubrick Stare: The anonymous attempted murderer gives one from his cell.
- Looks Like Cesare: Cesare
- Madness Mantra: "I must know everything."
- Madness Montage: Surely the Trope Maker.
- Mad Scientist: Caligari.
- Mind Control Eyes: The mind controlled Cesare reveals a particularly demented stare when Dr. Caligari first wakes him up.
- Mind Screw: The sets are Mind Screw incarnate. In fact, if you compare actual World War I photos to some scenes, you'll find that some of the movie scenes are twisted version of WWI battlefields
- Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Caligari.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: If you meet a guy who is named after one of the Borgias, don't mess with him.
- No Ending: "Now I can cure him." The End.
- No Name Given: Apparently Dr. Caligari renamed himself and Cesare after the legendary 17th century doctor and somnambulist he wished to emulate. We never learn what Dr. Caligari and Cesare's original names were.
- No Sneak Attacks: Averted, as Cesare's victims are killed in their sleep. His, too
- Only Sane Man: Oh, no you're not.
- The Reveal: Possibly another Trope Maker for film history.
- Roof Hopping: Cesare
- Scenery Full of Crazy: Dr. Caligari hallucinates the phrase "DU MUSST CALIGARI WERDEN" (YOU MUST BE CALIGARI) appearing all over the scenery once he gets the inspiration to mimic the legendary Dr. Caligari.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Alan
- Say My Name: "Caligari!"
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: It's easy to predict when someone will die if you go and kill them
- Shadow Discretion Shot: Cesare's murder of Allan.
- Surreal Horror
- Talkative Loon: Francis, although we don't realize it till the end.
- They Plotted a Perfectly Good Waste: The sets don't look real at all. This is because they're not.
- Things That Go Bump in the Night: Cesare
- Touch of the Monster: The Pieta Plagiarism on the cover is the first in film
- Twist Ending: It's All Just a Dream and Francis is crazy. Also, supposedly the Trope Maker for the film medium.
- Unreliable Narrator
- Viral Marketing
- Woman in White: Take a look at that poster up there.
- Zombie Gait: Cesare makes yet another trope