Film Review - The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 

Release date - 1920
Director - Robert Wiene
Genre - Horror, Mystery & Suspence, Classic, Cult movie.

Undoubtably one of the most influential silent films out there, directed by Robert Wiene,  screen play by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. It's a classic film showing paranoia about a hypnotist who uses a somnambulist to do his killing with an added twist ending, to which should be notable for having introduced the classic 'twist ending' in films and for its bold, weird and creepy set designs. 

"Credited as introducing the "twist ending" to cinema, Robert Wiene's 1920 "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" is a groundbreaking work of german Expressionism" (Cole Smithey, 2011)

In this era you can't deny even the credits seemed slow and it takes time to adjust to the classic film, but once we do adjust we can truly appreciate the films extraordinary use of painted light and clearly extraordinary characters.

One of the first things we notice is the films extraordinary set, the characters of this crazy dream like world inhabit a strange disproportionate, bold and tilted place, where shadows are painted straight onto set giving it a much more dramatic and honestly creepy feel, shown in (fig.2). Given the set is so heavily stylised it does make us feel as if Robert Wiene was trying to escape reality completely. The scenery is odd to say the least, with its jagged backgrounds, distorted and sharp look but its this look that makes us love and appreciate the film.((fig.3) showing distorted and jagged set to prove our point.) While reading through a few other reviews of the film we aren't in short supply of people who also think the set and overall look of the film is genius "The first thing everyone notices and best remembers about "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1920) is the film's bizarre look." (Roger Ebort, 2009).


Moving away from the set design now and more onto the makeup and characters, Cesare (fig.4) has some pretty heavy and bold eye make up, which generally adds to the overly creepy affect of the film also suggesting right from the start his character may not be so innocent, the character, just based on makeup likeness, for many may slightly resemble Edward from (Edward scissorhands, 1990) with his overall gloomy appearance, the pale, empty look, which just shouts mentalist. All characters are presented this way, all over done and all clearly not a normal bunch of town folk.
 "The makeup on the actors' faces seem ghostly and horrible - even on the hero" (Tim Eaton, 2002)


As for Jane (fig.5) it seems she has a more gothic lolita look going for her, in the film her pale beauty obviously aids her in become the soul love interest of two guys at once, who go about there interest in her very casually by even saying no matter what they will always be friends, like anyone truly believes that. But, back to the overall look of jane, it seems again another Tim burton film comes up when thinking about referencing, the white queen from (Alice in Wonderland, 2010) both have a very pale completion with dark lips, becoming pale beauties.

It seems The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has truly been an inspiration to many film makers throughout the years and without it we probably wouldn't have some of our favourite and most well known films now. 

Bibliography - 

Smithey, Cole. (2011) 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - Classic film pick'
In: http://www.colesmithey.com. 03.10.11 [online] At: http://www.colesmithey.com/capsules/2011/10/the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari.html
(Accessed on 25.09.14)

Ebert, Roger. (2009) 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari'
In: http://www.rogerebert.com. 03.06.09 [online] At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari-1920.
(Accessed on 25.09.14)

Eaton, Tim. (2002) 'Discovering silent film' 
In: http://www.imdb.com. 27.03.02 [online] At: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0010323/reviews.
(Accessed on 25.09.14)

Edward Scissorhands, From: Edward Scissorhands. (1990) 
Directed by Tim Burton. [DVD] USA: Twentieth Century Fox.

Alice In Wonderland, From: Alice In wonderland. (2010)
Directed by Tim Burton. [DVD] USA: Walt Disney Pictures.

Figure 1. Cabinet_of_dr_caligari_poster_02.jpg. (1920)
[Poster] www.horrorscreen.com. (Accessed on 25.9.14)

Figure 2. 2012-Crosscuts-walkerartcenter. (1920)
[Film Still] http://www.trocadero.com. (Accessed on 25.9.14)

Figure 3. The cabinet of Dr.caligari (german expression films). (1920)
[Film Still] http://splatterpictures.net/2011/04/08/the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari-german-expressionist-films-part-one/. (Accessed on 25.9.14)

Figure 4. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari film still / Germany 1920. (1920)
[Film Still] http://www.trocadero.com/stores/MuseXX/items/597699/item597699.html.
(Accessed on 25.9.14)

Figure 5. The_Cabinet of Dr Caligari_Jane. (1920)
[Film Still] http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_dg0zsi-BmVo/TLi-IPz2fVI/AAAAAAAAAIM/DOXT5hnSxZU/s1600/caligari.jpg.
(Accessed on 25.9.14)


  1. Hi Becky,

    Well done in getting your first film review out there!

    Firstly, a thoughtful discussion on the use of make-up and set design, and it's good to see you linking this film with other more contemporary ones...this is just what we want to see :)

    Just a couple of pointers today...firstly, your tone. Try and keep it as academic-sounding as possible, so avoid chatty language such as 'guys' and 'like anyone truly believes that' etc.

    When you use a quote, introduce it as part of your argument or discussion, so for example,

    '...may slightly resemble Edward from (Edward Scissorhands, 1990) with his overall gloomy appearance, the pale, empty look, which just shouts mentalist. As Tim Eaton says in his review, "The makeup on the actors' faces seem ghostly and horrible - even on the hero" ( Eaton, 2002) All characters are presented this way, all over done and all clearly not a normal bunch of town folk.

    So what you are doing here is introducing the quote and then 'unpicking' it to say how it is relevant.

    Make sure that all your film titles are italicised (but they don't need to go in brackets, just the date). Check your formatting - you seem to have centralised one portion in the middle... it looks best if you 'justify' the text, that is, not align right or left. It just makes it look a bit neater...

    Keep your illustrations list separate from the bibliography, under a heading 'Illustrations list', and list the authors in the bibliography in alphabetical order.

    Looking forward to the next one! :)

  2. Hey Becky - congrats on your debut as film critic! Meanwhile - see link!