Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 1920

This is the first film in the ‘Worlds Apart’ film programme, it is a German expressionist film directed by Robert Wiene. This film (along with Nosferatu 1922) is considered one of the first horror movies. The plot revolves around a man named Alan who tells the story of a travelling magician named Dr Caligari. Dr Caligari travels around with a somnambulist, Cesare who can predict the future. Caligari hypnotises the creature to commit a series of murders.

The most interesting thing about this movie are the visuals and set design. It is very whimsical and gothic in tone, there is not a strait horizontal or vertical line in the whole movie, all the windows and doors seem slightly askew (in fact everything is slightly askew).  I also like the way the shadows are painted it makes the sets extremely striking. It makes the whole movie look like a surrealist panting. This movie was a huge influence on director Tim Burton whose films have a very similar visual style to this movie.

If you look at Tim Burtons Penguin character from Batman Returns compared to the Dr. Caligari character you can see a definite resemblance. This shows how heavily this movie has influenced Tim Burton. You can also compare almost any Tim Burton movie to this movie and see many resemblances.

See any resemblance?

There is also an interesting twist at the end of this movie that I was genuinely not expecting from such an old movie. It basically doses a complete 180 and it turns out our assumptions about all of the characters are completely wrong. This reminded me of much more recent movies like Shutter Island (2010) Dir, Martin Scorsese.

I think the old fashion jittery film also adds to the style and personality on the film. The music is also important because it helps set the mood, which must be hard in a silent movie.


  1. Hi Sam

    Well done for completing some of the Maya tutorials however it seems week 4 is missing. Please complete and upload asap before we move on.

  2. Hey Sam - nice link between Caligari and the Penguin :-) Just a tip though; try and keep a more objective tone when you approach your reviews; for instance, you say the that twist at the end of the film reminded you of Shutter Island. This is true, of course, but, in terms of style and your critical 'voice', consider knocking out the personal slant; it's much more authoritative sounding thus; 'The twist ending that concludes The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari parallels the denouement of Scorcese's Shutter Island...' Also, you use the construction 'If you look...', which, in tone, is conversational (as if you're talking to your reader) - again, if you lose this tone, then it feels more confident and assertive; so - 'Tim Burton's Penguin from Batman Returns is clearly referencing Weine's Dr Caligari...' (Of course, what you really need here is an additional corroborative quote to lend additional weight to this observation...).