Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) Review

This review examines the film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) directed by Robert Wiene. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is an impressionistic horror film made in the silent move era and was

Throughout the years The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari had been very inspirational and influential to many other films due to its stylistic approach to film making. Most films in the 1920's had the tendency to capture reality, whilst Dr. Caligari did quite the opposite with its expressionistic approach. ''The 1920s were the decade that saw the rise of the Dada and Surrealist movements''[1]. This film showed a clear inspiration from the surrealism movement and alongside the German Expressionism with its abstract environments that almost looked like pieces of art work used as scenery. Although it is mainly art work and script writing that had big impact on the surrealism movement it looks like films such as Dr. Caligari had also moved in that direction too.

With this approach of surrealism being brought into the film it had a very unique approach to the environments. It seemed to be derived from original art works with big bold strokes, pointy grass, sleeping windows and jagged buildings. Frame this alongside dark atmosphere and interesting characters and you have yourself a very unique horror movie that does not seem a decay old at all. Whilst watching this movie I had several flashbacks of the more recently released movie Shutter Island(2010). Shutter Island seemed to have the same plot but without the same stylistic approach. This reinforces how era's can have an affect on how a film is approached, whilst we are in the era of special effects and realism they were focusing more on abstractness and symbolism; which raises the question which leads to a stronger and more unique viewing experience?

"Caligari" is said to be the first example in cinema of German Expressionism, a visual style in which not only the characters but the world itself is out of joint''.[1] Throughout the film it was clear that it was not set in a real time world. Rather it was set in the mind of the mentalist. This gave them the creative freedom to produce a world that was not of the norm and allowed this whole film a sense of non-normality to it hybridising fiction and non fiction. It was clear it was a film that was not suppose to be enjoyed for pleasure but to make you think and understand the situation that German people were left in after the first world war. It was even lead to believe that Caligari was a representation of Hitler and the germans where all his sleepwalkers under his spell in the book ''From Caligari to Hitler''. Although this was before Hitlers time it is always interesting to see connections between German expressionism films and the lead up to Hitlers rising.

Being part of the artistic movement allowed Dr. Caligari to approach this film with more of an artistic influence to it. After seeing the concept art you realise just how accurate this film is to art itself. This had inspired many other artists through the years, Tim Burton being one of the most noticeable artists and although the plot it self was not unsettling it was the surrounding environment and characters transform it into something weird. This made for a unique experience and it can show simply how simple set design and character design with the right execution can make for a very powerful experience indeed. It must of taken an excellent mind to bring this all together and to extract all the metaphors and meanings behind this revolutionary production would take a life time. Although this being a black and white film it was way above its time and even now in-between all the special effect hyper realism films being produced today this film should not be missed for pure quality of the production.



  1. Hi Anthony!

    You have made some interesting points here, particularly the comparison between cg-heavy realistic films of today, and the expressionistic films such as the one you are reviewing. I would just like to make a couple of points to make your film reviews (and essays) even more successful....
    Firstly, make sure you proof read before you post - your first paragraph comes to an interesting end with a very mysterious 'and was...' !
    Make sure you embed the quote properly - that means introducing the author of the quote, and 'unpicking' the quote afterwards, to reinforce your argument or discussion. This is a really good guide for academic writing that has a section just on using quotes...

    Once you have your quote, make sure it is referenced properly, both within the text and in the bibligraphy at the end. Images need to be referenced too - you can find out how to reference various sources here -

    Looking forward to reading your next review! :)

    1. ahh damn must of been where I pasted it in from word, as I done it in word at first. I'll quickly change because it doesn't look very good, thanks I'll try to quote it properly next time.

  2. Hey Ant,

    Boring though this is, you've got some punctuation issues here to keep on eye on - use of apostrophes; so *Hitlers rising*, should be 'Hitler's rising'. You put the apostrophe in because that tells us that 'the rising' belongs to Hitler. Without the apostrophe, it reads as if more than one Hitler is rising. Likewise *Hitlers time* should be punctuated as 'Hitler's time'. I know, I know, nitpicking, but that simple missing apostrophe is shifting your meaning, so yes, I'm afraid, they matter!