Bernheim, Caligari, Mabuse: Cinema and Hypnotism

Stefan Andriopoulos

in Possessed

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780226020549
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226020570 | DOI:
Bernheim, Caligari, Mabuse: Cinema and Hypnotism

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This chapter analyzes how films such as Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919–20) and Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922) appropriated a lively scientific debate about the unlimited power of suggestion. Furthermore, contemporary medical and psychological representations of the new medium spoke to a structural affinity of cinema and hypnotism: physicians employed verbal suggestion in order to produce visual film-like hallucinations in their hypnotized patients; and cinema itself was described as exerting a suggestive, irresistible influence on its spellbound audience. It was even feared that films depicting violent actions would induce similar crimes, since the posthypnotic influence of the moving images would control susceptible spectators after leaving the movie theater. The numerous cinematic representations of hypnosis thus not only adapted a medico-legal discussion about the possibility of “criminal suggestion”; by employing specifically filmic devices such as the close-up and the point-of-view shot, they also enacted the alleged hypnotic power of cinema.

Keywords: Robert Wiene; Fritz Lang; power of suggestion; Dr. Caligari; Dr. Mabuse; hypnosis; criminal suggestion; hypnotic power

Chapter.  13256 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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