The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari, Emporium, London Road, Brighton, Wednesday, September 10
Strange and surreal is the only way to describe the German expressionist classic The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari.
Nearly a century after its premiere in Berlin left audiences disturbed, it is still analysed, studied and heralded by film-makers and scholars alike.
The story is told by an inmate in an asylum as we follow the tale of the deranged Doctor Caligari and his faithful savant servant Cesare – who is locked in a coffin-like cabinet to be controlled at the wicked travelling showman’s whim.
Caligari arrives to perform at a carnival but feels he is wronged by the townsfolk, so summons the sleepwalking Cesare and orders him to kill.
The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari, directed by Robert Weine, has had immeasurable influence on the art of cinema – with an abstract nature which has captured the imaginations of budding film-makers for generations.
As with most films from the era all that existed for decades were a few grainy, heavily damaged and often incomplete reels of film.
But now thanks to the efforts of restoration artists at the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation the unforgettable and unsettling masterpiece can be seen in its most complete form since it first hit the screen in 1920.
The visuals have been cleaned up and lost frames have been restored.
The authentic period-style viewing at Emporium, as part of the annual nationwide celebration of film Scalarama 2014, sees the film’s haunting score performed live by Brighton-based four-piece The Plummets. The film's look is nightmarish and its atmosphere is sinister. Like stepping into a dream world the scenery is distorted, with jagged buildings plastered with crooked windows and off-centre doors, alongside a warped sense of perspective.
The film comes from an era in which you could not simply rely on a loud bang to get a fright out of the audience – instead every visual had to be meticulously hand-crafted to get under the skin.
Restoration project director Anke Wilkening boasts this latest release will be a new viewing experience, even for people familiar with the film.
She said: “The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari is one of the most watched silent movies. But none of the previous versions does justice to its significance as a film classic. The new viewing experience is made possible thanks to the camera negative and the fact all surviving film sources were considered. But our intensive work also tells us that there are still open questions that even the camera negative, our ‘silent witness', cannot answer. Perhaps one day a German distributor's print will emerge that reveals the final secrets of The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari.”
Starts 8pm, tickets £6.50. Visit www.emporiumbrighton.com/caligari