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The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari

Germany - 1919
Directed by Robert Weine


One of the most influential films of all time, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari initiated the German Expressionist style of cinema, often known as "Caligarism" and, if film theorist Siegfried Kracauer is to be believed (in his famous study "From Caligari to Hitler"), significantly contributed to the rise of Nazism by fatally distracting the German populace from socio-political realities with an `empty artistic formalism'. Phew!

Whatever, this all makes The Cabinet of Dr Caligari a must see film for anyone with an interest in cinema. Can you afford to miss this fountainhead film of both the horror genre and, in many ways, the film noir movement? Of course not!

Caligari's story tells of a series of murders committed in a small German town, coinciding with the arrival of Dr Caligari (Werner Krauss) at the local fair. Caligari's cabinet contains the sonambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt), who can apparently predict the future. Two friends, Alan and Francis, and their mutual beloved Jane (Lil Dagover) visit the fair, and Alan has Cesare predict his future. He is told he will die that night. Sure enough, during the night he is murdered. Suspicion naturally falls on Caligari and his sleepwalking henchman...

I don't want to give away any more of the story. Suffice to say that the differences between screenwriter's Janowitz and Mayer's original story and the form Caligari eventually took on under director Weine have been hotly debated by film scholars over the decades for the sociopsychological insights they may contain into Weimar Germany.

Clearly, there was something special about Caligari. You need only look at Lang's Metropolis or Murnau's Nosferatu - also in our 1997/98 season - to see the sort of influence it would exert over much of German cinema in the next decade: Dramatic play of light and darkness, distorted and exaggerated settings, stylised performances seeking to express the inner psyches of the characters...

Weine never made another film with the same impact as Caligari, though he tried. The paths of stars Krauss and Veidt diverged interestingly in the Nazi era: Veidt left Germany and was largely typecast into playing sinister villains, most famously the Nazi Strasser in Casablanca. Krauss remained in Germany, (in)famously to play the title role in the notorious, anti-Semitic propaganda piece, Jud Suss.


Guest Comments

From:  "Nicola Moroni"

"caso,forse unico,di un regista (Robert Wiene) che viene fagocitato dal suo film pi? celebre fino a diventarne schiavo ed essere ricordato solo per quest'opera."


From:  "James Day"

"This is a film I would love to see but I've never seen it on video here in the UK.  I'm a big horror fan and this is a worthy classic which I simply must have."


From:  "Curtis Owen"

"MUST SEE","a classic in its own right, the cabinet of dr caligari is a must see for all people who love film i strongly RECOMMEND this title, GERMAN Expressionist films are Great, Metropolis and Nosferatu are also good too."


From:  "Mige"

"This is the greatest silent film along with F.W. Murnau's ""Nosferatu"" if you ask me. It has a great atmosphere and both the acting and the sets are so wonderfully theatrical you just got to love it! Sometimes with silent films you get kind of bored with the music after a while but here even the music is great!"

 

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