Sleepwalking: “Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari” (1920)

     Universally regarded as a landmark in German Expressionistic cinema and one of the first important horror films, Robert Weine’s 1920 “Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari” is many things: a breakthrough in films penetrating the unconscious mind, one of the first films to offer a “twist” ending and an impressive exhibit of the use of distorted light, shadow and setting using painted backdrops. But as a film of estimable quality meriting its laudatory reputation, the film falls surprisingly short.
     Much of this has to do with the stagnant direction of Weine, who consistently relies on master shots  intercut with medium iris shots comprising a dreary visual redundancy which is at odds with  the often fascinating set design of Hermann Warm, Walter Reimann and Walter Röhrig These settings, almost exclusively composed of painted flats shaped into distorted geometric perspectives, abstractly decorated with bent and twisted symbols, shapes and shadowy forms, depict a truly hallucinatory environment, both dizzying and harrowingly claustrophobic, as if conjured by a disturbed mind; which telegraphs a key secret to the genuine mysteries of the film’s narrative. They convey, not a horror film in the truest sense, but a mystery within a gimmicky faux-horror framework (If we consider the mentally ill “monsters” on the level of the supernatural manifestations of the Wolfman, resurrected mummies, vampires and products of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab.) that strains at appearing a manifestation of the otherworldly but is merely a contribution to a rather clever narrative feint.
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About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in 1920's cinema, art house cinema, cinema, Film, Film Reviews, German cinema, horror films, movie reviews, Movies, Reviews, silent films, silent movies and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sleepwalking: “Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari” (1920)


  2. stuarthine says:

    Reblogged this on Mr Shines Movie World and commented:
    I thought I’d reblog this since this film featured ina film I recently reviewed (Maniacs)

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