Bing Arts Center celebrates ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’

Date: 12/18/2014

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is essential viewing for anyone seriously interested in film and now there is a new presentation produced by the Bing Arts Center.

The DVD is the first in what Bing’s Executive Director Brian Hale hopes is an on-going effort in creating art products to help fund the on-going restoration of the theater on Sumner Avenue in Springfield. 

The film was produced in 1920 and is part of the German Expressionist movement. While other filmmakers of the day were attempting to present films that appeared more and more real – more natural acting, outdoor settings, attention to realistic details– movies made under the Expressionist style were highly stylized.

Rather than use film as a means to recreate reality, these movies were designed to create their own reality. The painted sets don’t look real. The action of the films might seem nightmarish. The acting could be exaggerated.

These films are still attractive today perhaps because they are not grounded in a particular time that might make them seemed “old fashioned” by some audiences. They are conscious artistic statements.

“Caligari” tells a story about a young man and how he tried to save the woman he loved from the hands of an evil sideshow performer, Dr. Caligari. His claim to fame is his control over a somnambulist, someone who is asleep and yet can walk and fulfill Caligari’s commands.

The film was directed by Robert Wiene whose vision is to plunge the audience in the middle of a very strange place and today the film still has that power.

Although the film, because of its public domain status, is pretty easy to find, The Bing’s presentation can boast of a superior musical score by composer Brendan Cooney and his Not So Silent Cinema ensemble. Recorded in a surround sound format by Warren Amerman at his Rotary Records studio in West Springfield, the score is incredibly effective in accompanying Wiene’s film.

The quality of the print is acceptable and when coupled with the score, this becomes a very good silent film experience.

The DVD sells for $15 and is available at the Bing as well as Flowers, Flowers! at 758 Sumner Avenue, Springfield, MA 01108.
Quick take

One of the most enjoyable films of the summer is now on home video. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is part science fiction adventure, part comedy and all the wacky vision of director James Gunn whose previous films include “Slither” and “Super.”

Although this is an adaptation of a lesser-known Marvel comic book, don’t worry that you will need a ton of backstory to understand it. Gunn sets up his story and characters pretty quickly and then takes us on a heck of a ride.

Unlike “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” this film, while it does have a serious side, is simply fun. 

If you didn’t see it in the theaters, you need to catch it now.