A WILD time in EVERY sense of the word. 1989’s ‘Dr. Caligari’ is quite literally everything I could want in a movie and more. What started as an initial attempt at writing a ‘Nightdreams’ sequel quite quickly evolved into a softer and MUCH more melodramatic beast thats as captivating as it is absolutley barmy.
The whole film seems to be some kind of a comment on the pharmacutical industry and mental illness at large. But honestly, the whole thing is just such a thrill of a script, as we follow a desperate husband trying to find a cure for his unstoppably horny wife who ultmatley ends up committing her to the care of ‘Dr. Caligari’ the great grandaughter of the original ‘Caligari’ who it transpires is running an asylum with alterior motives. She’s using the inmates as guinea pigs for her sick and twisted brain experiments.
When I Say that this is everything I could want in a movie and more, I really cant understate that and this is going to be a really short review as a result. The scripts breakneck paced, absolutely all over the place narrativley, but due to the nature of the films subject that fits PERFECTLY, tonally its mad as a box of frogs with demented dialogue thats hamtastic, melodramatic and infinitely quotable. The closest I can describe this film to someone who hasnt seen it is it feels like you’ve been sex starved for a month and then given a concussion and made to watch a porn parody. Its insane. and clocking in at a BEAUTIFUL 78(ish) minutes. I feel my only criticism (that it maybe could have given us just a *tiny* bit more context as to WHAT exactly is going on. Is a futile ask and absolutley against the POINT of this thing. I loved it.
The direction is perfect, with Sayadian bringing that ‘Nightdreams’ surrealist quality and combining it with a heavy German expressionist influence by way of the Pop art movement. almost all of the set spaces are entirely shot within a black void, and almost every aspect of the production is razor focussed on delivering probably one of the clearest cinematic visions i’ve seen in a GOOD while.
Direction of the cast too is absolutely pin point accurate. I FULLY believe that Sayadian got EXACTLY what he wanted from the cast with not ONE concession to his artistic vision. it’s lively, manic, maddening and hyper animated. Back when I used to make ACTUAL movies myself. THIS. was the style and vision I aspired to make. Its just such a delight to sit through.
The cine…my god. the cine. colourful, perfectly framed, totally open to compositional experimentation. a film that challenges methodology and works an act that I can only describe as ‘Movement recycling’ taking the expressionist movement and breathing new life into it with a late 80s aesthetic. it’s gorgeous, probably one of the nicest looking films i’ve seen in a GOOD long time. I had an absolute blast with this thing.
The performances are astounding. as mentioned this is a film that trades in melodrama and campy massively over the top performances are the flavour of the day in this thing from second 1 right up to end credits. THIS. is dedication to the cause on a level I seldom see in cinema, and absolutley everyone involved in this production should be deeply proud of the performances they gave here. as frankly they’re blinking well baffling and brilliant in equal measure, and bloody good fun to boot!
The soundtracks unique jazzy and electronic. It fits the tone of the film perfectly and I really enjoyed the vibe it helped set for the production. I really hope it gets a physical release of its own someday.
All in all, If you havent guessed by now, I REALLY liked this thing. Its art house cult cinema at it’s finest, rarely if ever feeling seedy and genuinely pushing the barriers of taste and creative decency. If you havent seen this film, you need to change that ASAP. Because…I can honestly say, theres nothing quite like it out there. a cinematic revelation and im REALLY hoping the recent 4k rerelease helps reignite interest in Stephen and Jerrys Oeuvre.