Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari & The Blue Angel (Reflection Paper 3 & 4)


Have you have gone go a movie and take minutes later you feel like you are in a wrong movie?  Or have you ever bought a movie that after about five to ten minutes of watching you feel like going back to the store to exchange for anything?  That is how I felt when I started watching “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”.  Somehow I thought the movie was going to be like every other movies, but it wasn’t.  What’s unique about this movie, however, is the way the movie helps in making us engage in imaginative composition.  While reading the notes that precede the images, to fully understand this movie, one needs to engage some mental focus or enter the world of imagination.  As the movie progress, however, I became move and more interested, and I started focusing more and pushing the backward button whenever I felt that I needed to get more meaning.

The movie itself is not easy to follow and understand.  The movie has no voices, the characters are talking, but their voices are not coming heard, and there is loud music throughout the movie.  The movie is in black and white, and as a result some scenes or pictures are not clear.  The images are not sharp; sometimes the characters faces look blurry.

Once you convince your mental receptor to by pass the annoyance of the loud music and the lack of voices, and also convince yourself to just focus, the movie becomes meaningful and interesting.  The movie has themes of fantasies, delusions, guilty, and insanity; the main character “Francis” is experiencing all the four elements.  The viewers are brought into Francis’s nightmarish world through story telling.  The movie started with Francis entering his dream world, and started narrating.  He narrates the story of one mad Dr. Caligrari and Caesare.  The movie has an unnatural and a dramatic backgrounds; the landscape is not real too.  The movies interchange between the hospital and Francis’ vision of the small town “Holstenwall”.  Francis narration is that the arrival of his doctor, Dr. Caligrari, and the somnambulist Caesar brought acts of murder; Francis believed that Dr. Caligrari was using the somnambulist to commit murder.  Based on Francis’ narration, Dr. Caligrari was hypnotizing the somnambulist making him to subject to all Dr. Caligrari’s commands.  Francis’ narration got me going too, thinking and believing that Dr. Caligrari was indeed behind the killing; it was until the end when I realized that everything that Francis was narrating was not true, there were all fantasies and delusions.  To some ways, it might not be wrong for a viewer to conclude that Francis was psychologically guilty and insane.    

What is interesting about this movie is the role that creative writing played, especially at the end of the movie.  The creative writing made the movie looks like it was actually taking place in Francis’ unconscious mind or in Francis’ world of imagination; the creative writing also made Dr. Caligrari appears as though he is just a fantasy and not real.  The main symbol that I got from this movie is how it is possible to control people’s minds. 

Sometimes back, about four years ago, I watched the movie about the mind control experiment; the mind control experiment tried to explain what exactly happened during the holocaust.  The objective of the experiment was to prove that people are more likely to obey authority figures.  Francis’ narration is somehow saying that, “yes” people are more likely to obey authority without even thinking about their actions.  Caesare is an example of the thousands of people who obeyed order from the German authorities to commit murder of innocent people.  But again, this was just a movie, and at the end of the movie, reality checked in and characters were seen for who they were really are, and it turned out that Francis was the insane one and his story was nothing, but an illusion.  


In “The Blue Angel” Josef Von Sternberg tells a tragic story of Immanuel (Emil Jannings), a crusty professor who is corrupted by beautiful, exotic, and sexy nightclub singer and dancer Lola Lola (Marlen Dietrich).  Immanuel discovers that his students have been frequenting a nightclub to see Lola Lola performing at the Blue Angel.  Determined to stop his students from going to the night club, the professor decided to go to the nightclub, but only to be impacted and corrupted by Lola Lola on the first encounter.  Overpowered by Lola Lola’s nature and beauty, the professor decided to quit his job and marry Lola Lola.  After living off his savings reality finally checked in, they got broke, and Immanuel is forced to become a clown.  Immanuel and Lola Lola eventually went back to the Blue Angel where appeared on stage where he experienced the most humiliating moments of his life.  The professor went from being a feared and respected and a pillar of the community to being reduced next to nothing.
The character of Immanuel represents the corrupted and hypocritical world in which the angel becomes a devil.  Immanuel disapproved of his students’ frequent visit to the Blue Angel nightclub; he felt that it was immoral for his angels to be visiting that place and vowed to stop them from going there.  Being in the club just once changed Immanuel’s mission; he was no longer interested in stopping his students from going there anymore, but he started falling in love with the place and with Lola Lola.  It seems the professor fall in love with Lola, just the same way his students had fallen in love with her.
Some people might say that Lola’s lifestyle is like a magnet that can attract everyone to their destruction.  As for me, I don’t think this is true; not everyone can give up everything that they have worked for all their lives just to fall for someone like Lola.  Lola is nothing, but a poseur; her life is not natural, and only people with low integrity can lower themselves for her.  The professor is a victim of luck of exposure; all his life he was never exposed to the life in the cabaret, and seeing Lola acting was like experiencing life in another planet.  This was a man that society was counting on as the educator, the moral guider, and in a way, a man that everyone should look up to as an example of success, but he never experienced life outside his cycle.  My grandpa used to tell me that “before you judge anyone, first allow yourself to see the world through his/her eyes…don’t judge anyone before you get to really know who him or her”.  What the professor did was judging his students as corrupt for going to the Blue Angel, but when he started going there himself, he felt that everything was normal.
Is the movie such as the Blue Angel and Caligari irrational, destructive, and dangerous?  It all depends on what type of society one is from.  Perhaps back then it was considered as destructive to live such life as Lola’s.  But nowadays, with the exposure that everyone is experiencing from different sources, that kind of life is actually as normal as any other.  In New York for example, the gentlemen bars can be found just anywhere; some gentlemen bars and exotic nightclubs are even in residential places, and sometimes near places of Worship.  Of course the communities try to fight these clubs, but most of them are protected by the law, hence everyone has learned to live with them.

Overall, the movie was really enjoyable to watch; great experience and a lot of laughing.     

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