Satirical on every level, Bob Fosse's 1972 film Cabaret redefines the previously accepted genre of the musical. Using the songs and routines as cunning tools of social commentary the musical numbers both predict and interpret the world of Berlin in 1931.
The opening routine, 'Wilkommen', is a powerful introduction to the opposing worlds of the protagonists Brian and Sally and also indicates the significance all songs in the Cabaret will be instilled with. As the camera moves from the distorted mirror to the grotesquely masked face of the Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey) who claims, 'I am your host, wilkommen', the need to look below the 'beautiful' surface of both the cabaret and Berlin is established. As the opening progresses the MC welcomes in three languages, English, French and German, communicating from the outset that the satirical and political messages of the film are universal, but often in need of personal interpretation. It is obvious the the MC as a good host will meet all our needs and it is vital to note that it is with him that we establish our initial identification; the relationship with Brian (Michael York) is secondary even though he is the protagonist. Like the audience, the MC is an observer who seeks to critique the world of Berlin.
The initial establishment of the female protagonist, Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli), is also undertaken in the opening routine and the character is far from distinctive as she stands on the stage with 'the cabaret girls'. Indeed, from the beginning Sally is a metaphor for the indistinctive, hedonistic masses of people who long for the glory they observe in others and claim should be theirs at any cost.
Despite her claims that she is driven by 'divine decadence', Sally uses her costumes and make-up to obscure her inner desires. When...