Weekend cinema (1): a German horror film from 1919

“The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari”

This wonderfully radical German Expressionist work from director Robert Wiene is unusually wordy for a silent film but then it has quite an intricate plot with a surprise ending. It is not just the story that is original; the stage sets are full of disorientating features such as unnatural angles and and weird shapes. The whole idea is to draw the viewer into the madness at the heart of the narrative.

But this was a very political work: the all-controlling Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss) represents the authoritarian figure that has so often dominated German politics, while the somnabulist Cesare (Conran Veldt) who blindly does the doctor’s bidding – even when it involves murder – stands for the German populace that allowed itself to be marched into the Great War.


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