After a rather odd series of attempts to get DVDs from the campus library — too long to tell, but let’s say I was inspired to ask for the Matrix once Crouching Tiger became to complicated to obtain, but then the Matrix was even more complicated to find a copy of so I asked for Brazil which seemed fitting the situation as it was evolving, but then Brazil although in the catalog as available was not or was only viewable within the building, so I asked for Ken Russell’s Kafka, that I could have, so inspired I asked for the 1919 Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, that was in as well — we watched the Caligari film tonight. Rather I watched the film while my family fell asleep.
The version I ended up with had a complex dissonate sound track; the original was a silent. The copy was a bit faded and glaring alternatively. But the odd Expressionist sets, completely painted in stark black and white and built with no right angles instead favoring sharp unsettling acute knife-like whenever possible, came across nicely or better jarringly. The film is told by a young man sitting in the garden of an asylum. The story of the reappearance of the evil 11th Century monteback magician and his somambulant zombie-like slave who can see into the future but will only predict deaths — murders that he will himself commit — were meant to address the insanity of the World War in which old men had just sent young men off to kill for them. But through a series of false endings and perhaps false ends the story is turned on its head several times over. The framing for the film was added over the objections of the writers/director at the insistance of the producer, Erich Pommer. Many argue that the framing story while completely changing the story’s intent and message actually created a more memorable film.
One interesting note: the somambulist, Ceasare, was played by Conrad Veidt, who would much later appear as Maj. Strasser in Casablanca.