Movie Name: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Release Date(s): February 26, 1920
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Meet Francis (Friedrich Fehér). He spins a tale of murder, his love Jane (Lil Dagover), a somnambulist named Cesare (Conrad Veidt), and the crazed doctor Caligari (Werner Krauss) who controls him. There is more to Francis and his story than appears and Caligari’s plans for Cesare might not just be revenge and murder. Caligari has his motives, and Francis must uncover his plans before it is too late…but Francis might be keeping secrets himself.
Directed by Robert Wiene, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a silent classic and is considered one of the foundations of German Expressionism. The movie is widely heralded as a classic and is in the public domain with multiple versions floating around. The early horror film is frequently listed in the “Best of” lists for early film and films in general.
I have a hard time with silent films. The movies are at such a wildly different pace than movies of today that they are hard to focus on. With much of the story coming from visual cues and small nuances by the actor, it is easy to miss plot points and story aspects. I do however highly recommend The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as a classic that helps you understand how modern film evolved.
The movie’s story is quite clever and right up there with modern films. The story features a “trick ending” that spins what you have seen throughout the film and helps explain some of the bizarre visuals and story aspects. *****Spoiler Alert***** The beginning of the film introduces Francis and you see his oddly acting fiancée. It turns out all the players in the movie are in an insane asylum with Dr. Caligari as the head of the asylum. It ties in with the visuals of the skewed mind of Francis and why the interactions are so unnatural.
The acting in this aspect is quite strong. Logic is thrown out the window and the over-the-top nature of silent film acting becomes natural because the characters are insane. The stars of this film obviously are Werner Krauss as the crazed Dr. Caligari and Conrad Veidt as his thrall Cesare and most of the iconic images involve these two players. The lasting imagery of the two actors has made them icons for decades.
The imagery of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has also spanned generations. The movie’s extreme sets and twisting look can easily be seen as influence on tons of other directors including most directly someone like Tim Burton who still uses Wiene’s style (Fritz Lang was originally approached for the film). Despite the often dark and scratchy look of even the cleanest versions of this film, the movie still looks fantastic and is a feast for the eyes.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a must for film fanatics and scholars of film. The movie still resonates in today’s film and it is one of those early films that help you understand film. As a horror fan it is interesting to see the screen’s early “monsters”. The movie actually still provides some chills and thrills and holds up. The movie was turned into an opera in 1997 and was the inspiration for The Cabinet of Caligari in 1962 and The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez in 1991. The movie was remade in 2005 in a talking version which used imagery from the original.
[easyazon-block align=”center” asin=”B00N5ND6PU” locale=”us”]