» The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari Movie Review
by Bernhard Marshall - December 5, 2003
"The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari" is one of the most important silent movies and was one of the most influential to many directors through the decades.
It called attention to the cinematic art of the Germans in a post World War I time, and it was the first successful horror movie, predecessor to "Nosferatu" and "Metropolis".
Behind and Inside the Cabinet
Directed by Robert Weine in 1920, the style of "The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari" is the expressionism, which in the cinema means that the images have to speak for themselves, more than any text or speech.
In many ways, the German expressionist movies can be seen as the first inspiration for the depicting of supernatural images, due to the experiments the filmmakers used to do with lights, shadows, out-of-focus images, and image juxtaposition.
In spite of the surrealism shown in those movies, they always had a story that related with common matters of human society, like the outsider, as shown in "Nosferatu" and prejudice and ignorance as shown in "Metropolis".
In "The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari", the theme is to show the corruption that can affect humans and make them act stupidly and violently.
The movie shows a small town of a surreal and creepy landscape. The houses are narrow and decayed and reflect the behavior and appearance of the people who live in them.
The first scene shows Francis (Friedrich Feher), sitting on a bench beside a man, and after seeing his fiancée walk past him as a zombie, he starts to tell the story of how an evil doctor upset their lives, at the time he and a friend of his were courting Jane, the fiancée (Lil Pagover).
The doctor had set a tent in the local fair, and when Francis and his friend Alan (Hans Heinrich Von Twardowski) went to it, they visited the doctor's tent, where he was presenting to the public Cesare "The Somnambulist", who was described by him as a man who could see the past and the future.
Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) asks the public to make his "pet" Cesare (Conrad Veidt), the inhabitant of the cabinet, any question and Alan asks him "How long do I have to live?" Cesare's answer is "Until dawn tomorrow", and Alan obviously panics.
But that is true and after the murder of the town clerk, Alan is also murdered with a knife. Although the murder scene is shown, the corpse isn't and this gives more suspense to the story.
There are several different subplots, that serve to confuse the watcher and make you wonder what's behind what the people involved say, and who's guilty for so many deaths.
When the plots all seem to show that the murderer can only be one of the characters, the story changes to show that the killer is someone else. All these mysterious murders involve the sinister Dr. Caligari, and his disturbing cabinet creature.
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Copyright © 2003 Bernhard Marshall