Sunday, 31 October 2010


Director: Robert Wiene
Producer:  Rudolf Meinert
Cast: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Fredriech Feher, Lil Dangover, Hans Twardofwski
Year: 1920

I was never interested in watching a silent film as I consider them slow and out of date. I am very happy though I had the opportunity to watch The Cabinets of Dr. Caligari which is one of the most remarkable expressionist films of the century. 
'What is incontrovertible is that The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is an Expressionist film. But to what extent? Expressionism was a movement in the arts beginning before World War 1. It involved painters whose work was characterized by subjectivism, emotionalism and anti-naturalism.'
The film is a proof that we don't always have to depend on reality to create something visually beautiful.I am now fully aware of the influences this film had in so many areas of modern culture and have a different aspect towards silent films.
What mostly captured my interest was the stunning visualisations which are more experimental than any  others coming out today.The settings are painted on a blank canvas - even some of the shadows in some scenes were handmade! Asymmetry is dominant in the whole film as well as impossible angled buildings and furniture. The tilted walls and windows along with the spikey trees and grass captures the viewer's interest. Basically the whole scenery seems like a twisted Wonderland which looks as if it came out of a mad person's head. Yet brainsick, this is what  names the film a landmark of modern horror films.
Even the characters fitted perfectly this mad world. Tall, skinny people with sunken eyes was their main characteristics . The acting was a bit overdone and the face expressions exaggerated but this blended nicely with the already frantic atmosphere. One of the modern filmakers that has certainly been influenced by this film is Tim Burton. There is no doubt that Tim Burton borrowed Cesar's model for Edward Scissorhands. As it was said: 'All of the principals involved have long since passed on, but the influence of Caligari continues. Besides giving visual ideas to Tim Burton, its themes are echoed in many of David Cronenberg's works, and it is acknowledged as the first horror film, parent of an entire genre. By today's standards, parts of it may seem clunky and quaint, but overall it stands up, and deserves to be seen by any student -- or fan -- of film.'


Note: Following Phil's advice I avoided describing the story in this review and just focused on analysing it.


  1. This is a good review, Andriana - very analytical and ideas driven; sometimes, the story element is important to include IF there is some specific relationship between it and the way a particular scene is shot/designed/lit etc. It's just that many students seem to confuse 'reviewing with repeating'! Just a quick observations though - you suggest in your review that the 'acting was a bit overdone' - according to whom? This is a generalisation - and a superficial one at that, because the style of acting was 'not' overdone for a 1920 film - it WAS the style. You have to be careful to ensure your reviewing 'in context'; for instance, it would be totally 'non-insightful' for someone to suggest that the special effects in a film made in 1920 etc. are 'dated' - of course they are. It's stating the obvious that old films 'feel' old to modern audiences; that's what's great about your review; you talk about the ideas and themes instead. Bravo!

  2. oh - and it's Cabinet - not cabinets... This film's approach to lighting and set design would be worth exploring for your House of Usher perhaps? Try something REALLY stylised and expressionistic! :-)

  3. I was thinking about giving my painting a more expressionistic style. As it's shown from this movie a reality based visualisation is not always the key to a great outcome so...why not? :)