1. The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Everything has to start somewhere. And, in Post-World War I Germany, a cinematic breakthrough was brewing: Carl Mayer, an Austrian scenarist and Hans Janowitz, a Czech poet, conceived the tale of a psychotic madman who could control another human being and drive him to murder. While that may seem rather common place these days, the concept was positively novel in 1920. Directed by Robert Wiene, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari is now a landmark in film history, both within and without the horror genre.
The simplistic plot involves an insane hypnotist (Werner Krauss) who uses a somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) to commit murders. The film features a dark and twisted visual style, with sharp-pointed forms, oblique and curving lines, structures and landscapes that lean and twist in unusual angles, and shadows and streaks of light painted directly onto the sets.
No one was trying to fool anyone with the obviously phony backdrops, the flat prop trees, or the misshapen doors, windows, and walkways. The world of The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari is meant to resemble the world of the stage and continues to set a standard for go-for-broke visual flair. It remains cinema’s preeminent embodiment of dream-screen anguish.
Any other films you’d like to add to the list? Let us know in the comment section below.
courtesy of Whatculture.com