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Once again into the cabinets of Dr. Caligari: Evil spaces and hidden sources of the Caligari screenplay

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This article poses a question previously overlooked in the tremendous body of research on Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari: why does the cabinet take such a prominent place in the title alongside the protagonist? The question is approached through a reading of the Caligari screenplay, which reveals that its narrative can be fruitfully conceived as a struggle of ‘evil spaces’. Pursuing the origins of this original spatial structure, the article uncovers a close connection between the script and the popular fantasy novels of the early twentieth century, in particular the only novel by the Austrian graphic artist Alfred Kubin. It is finally argued that acknowledging this connection to fantasy novels as well as the importance of the spatial structure in the Caligari script allows us to reconsider the crude opposition between the script’s narrative and the film’s set design that is prevalent in the existing research on the film.

Keywords: Alfred Kubin; Caligari; Carl Mayer; German screenplay; Hans Janowitz; narrative space; silent screenwriting

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies

Publication date: September 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Screenwriting aims to explore the nature of writing for the moving image in the broadest sense, highlighting current academic thinking around scriptwriting whilst also reflecting on this with a truly international perspective and outlook. The journal will encourage the investigation of a broad range of possible methodologies and approaches to studying the scriptwriting form, in particular: the history of the form, contextual analysis, the process of writing for the moving image, the relationship of scriptwriting to the production process and how the form can be considered in terms of culture and society. The journal also aims to encourage research in the field of screenwriting, the linking of scriptwriting practice to academic theory, and to support and promote conferences and networking events on this subject.
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