The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)

This piece of german expressionist cinema is credited as the very first horror movie and is quite the piece of cinematic art.

October has hit us and Halloween has begun. What better way to mark it than to talk about the very first Horror movie ever. Dr Caligari tells the story of an insane hypnotist who is using a somnambulist to commit murders. It is a dark and twisted style and unlike anything you will ever see.


Everything in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is stuff we could talk about, but we are gonna start off with the directing. Robert Wiene started making this in 1919 after WW1 and Germany was in a whole lot of problems. Every sequence is twisted in unique oblique structures. It is quite the fantastic graphic style that symbolizes a Germany in trouble. They lost World War 1, and the poverty was sky-high. Many film theories believe that Dr Caligari is a symbol of Germany tyranny, and that the somnambulist is the symbol of the average german being manipulated into doing bad things.


The lead role of Doctor Caligari is played by Werner Krauss, he is regarded as one of Germany’s finest actors of the time and the character of Caligari looks wicked and insane. He is a small wicked man with glasses who seems manipulative.


Dr Caligari uses a Frame Story narrative, there is a prologue and epilogue that establishes a delusional flashback narrative. There are several suggestions that there was other scenes filmed that was cut. The movie is filled with plot twists here and there. Seeing how old it is there are a lot of speculations in regards to the production of Dr Caligari.


The famous film theorist Sigfried Kracauer draws parallels to Adolf Hitler and the rise of the nazi party. He suggests that Caligari is the subconscious need Germany had for a tyrant and the destabilized contrast between insanity and sanity

Caligari is split up in 6 acts, and the movie itself is an hour and 17 minutes long and it feels like it moves along so fast. There are plenty of things to look at and be fascinated by, and the story is told pretty abstract. The movie uses a narrative point of view where you really can’t say exactly who is telling the story.


I could have spoken about Dr Caligari for ever. German Expressionism is such a unique part of cinematic history that it is hard to describe well. But go see Dr Caligari, it is that good and a movie that must be experienced.


Caligari is a piece of cinematic art, and everyone who loves movies are gonna enjoy this piece of filmatic art. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is German film at its best, and when the german expressionism tried to do something different they managed to do it better than anyone. Caligari is a movie unlike anything you have seen, or will see again, and it is clear to see how important of an influence it has been on film history.

Score: 9/10


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