Saturday, 6 November 2010

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 1920- Review (re-write)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
(Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari)
Director: Robert Wiene, 1920
Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari
Conrad Veidt as Cesare
Friedrich Feher as Francis
Lil Dagover as Jane
Hans Heinrich von Twardowski as Alan
Rudolf Lettinger as Dr. Olsen

I hadn’t read anything about this film before I viewed it so I wasn’t sure what to expect apart from 1hour 11minutes of a 1920 silent movie. The first thought that came to mind after watching it was how much it reminded me of a film called Shutter Island (2010). They both had the same twist at the end.
The basic storyline consists of Francis (Friedrich Feher) sitting on a bench and telling the story of his fiancĂ© Jane (Lil Dagover) and his friend Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski) and how they had once gone to a fair. There was an amusement there of Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) and his amazing somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt) who could predict the future of anybody. Alan’s prophecy was his death before morning.

This was for-filled. The rest of this flashback spoke of 'Murderous mayhem and pursuit ensued in a cock-eyed artificial landscape of over-sized furniture and ill-formed spiky trees where everything tends towards spirals and spider webs' (Nick Hilditch,, 1/3/2001). They resolved the killer to be Cesare under the trance of Dr. Caligari filling out his murderous fantasies. 
However, the ending had a twist, it turned out to be Francis having his own fantasy about himself, Jane and Cesare who were all patients in a mental hospital and Dr. Caligari was the chief Dr of the asylum. 

The sets and art design of this film were amazingly abstract for it's time. The distortion of everything in the image, e.g. the chairs, tables, doors, walls, floors, everything including the theatricals of the actors really show that 
'surrealist cinema begins right here' (James Sanford,, 26.7/2002)
I think these distorted sets really give emphasis to 
'a film of delusions and deceptive appearances, about madmen and murder' (Roger Ebert,, 3/6/2009)

There was a lot of average camera shot use such as long and medium shots, but also to eccentric a particular expression or emotion at a critical moment in the film there was use of the close up. This particular shot was used a lot when Dr. Caligari (in the fantasy) would show people his somnambulist and this would give the feeling of a greasy twisted man obviously doing something evil.


  1. I edited this review with the advice from the last version Phil, have I got closer or do I need to re-write it again?

  2. hey Nat - not much contextual info here - for instance, you don't mention expressionism in any clear, defined way. Also, get used to putting your quotes in italics to make them distinct. This review does seem pretty short - not always a bad thing, but this does feel a little thin; I don't know if you're using the following critical sources, but take a look at

    Do a 'Caligari' search and just see how much content pops up! Take a look at the way in which people respond to, and write about film. I think you're maybe lacking confidence in this aspect...