Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Robert Wiene
1920 • 67 Minutes • 1.33 : 1 • Germany 
Decla-Bioscop AG 

Cast: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich FehĂ©r, Lil Dagover, Hans Twardowski
Screenplay: Hans Janowitz, Carl Mayer
Cinematography: Willy Hameister
Producers: Rudolf Meinert, Erich Pommer

Awards & Honors

The Essential Films Countdown Lists
100 Essential Horror Movies - 2011 Edition
100 Essential Horror Movies - 2012 Edition
100 Essential Horror Movies - 2013 Edition

100 Essential Horror Movies - 2016 Edition


Cesare, a somnambulist controlled by the demented Dr. Caligari, makes deadly predictions that come

to pass.  In fact, Caligari is hypnotizing Cesare to commit murders around the country.  Can our hero, Francis, stop the murders before it is too late? Or worse yet, before he descends into madness?

This is perhaps THE defining work of German Expressionist cinema with its sharp angles and twisted backgrounds and exaggerated set design. The style lends itself to the psychological horror of the film. It's an intentionally distorted reality to keep the viewer consistently on edge and cause anxiety and stress. The entire film has a nightmarish quality and plays into the climax, which may possibly one of the first twist endings in cinema. Even the film's intertitles have a creepy, unsettling style, far from the standard font used at the time. The film draws attentions to its words. Film scholars have noted that Cesare, manipulated into committing crimes while sleeping, is an allegory to the horrors of Germany at the time, a nation devastated by World War I.

Robert Wiene's expressionist style has a clear influence on modern filmmakers, especially Tim Burton. Look to Edward Scissorhands, Batman and Beetlejuice for the clear homages to this film. From film noir to modern horror, this film's influence is felt everywhere. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is the pinnacle of paranoid horror films.

You fools, this man is plotting our doom! We die at dawn! He is Caligari!

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