The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Deadly psycho horror German movie “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920) directed by Robert Wiene and starring Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Lil Dagover among others.

Considered as a legend especially in the German expressionist cinema, which is basically films which focus on “themes as bizarre madness or obsession, particularly through the use of visual distortion” (wikipedia). The film has an unusual visual style in the sense that the roads and houses etc. are all “twisted with sharp pointed forms oblique and curving lines, structures and landscape that lean and twist in unusual angles and shadows and streaks of light painted directly onto the sets” (wikipedia). The set design and art direction of the movie is simply outstanding.

Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) wants permission from a rude town clerk to have his stall in the town fair. He is basically presenting a somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt), who has slept continuously day and night and will give predictions. Alan (Hans Heinz V. Twardoswki) and Francis (Freidrich Feher) are vying for the attention of Jane (Lil Dagover) and Alan wants to know from Cesare how long he will live. He is shocked with the answer “upto next dawn”.

In the night Alan is murdered and a string of murders take place. Francis is distraught and starts investigating with Jane’s father. Jane also goes and visits Dr. Caligari in his cabin. That night Cesare comes to kill Jane but strangely he abducts her instead. Upon the villagers raising a cry, he drops her. Dr. Caligari escapes from his cabin. Francis follows him and finds that he is the mental asylum director obsessed with an ancient story of an Italian monk who uses his somnambulist to commit murders.

There is an interesting twist in the end of the story. It is a cult classic and probably the most famous Expressionist cinema. It broke new grounds in that era. Its probably the first ever psycho horror movie, the first noir movie. Production values for a 1920 movie are pretty good. The print that i saw on youtube is probably a remastered one and they might have added music to the movie later on, which is again quite good.

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