Tuesday, 22 September 2015

SPACE ODDITIES: Das Cabinet De Dr. Caligari (1920) Film Review

Fig. 1 'Das Cabinet de Dr. Caligari' poster

This review will look at how director Robert Wiene revolutionised the way in which reality and fantasy were showcased upon the big screen. Directors and artists alike, still consider this movie one of the greats.

Robert Wiene's Das Cabinet de Dr. Caligari' (1920) considered a classic amongst the greatest movies ever made. Weine created a silent horror film that has inspired directors of today to look at the way in which environment can give story depth and a new sense of purpose. 

In an instant Wiene captures the audiences eye, with jagged edges, swooping corners and structures that twist and turn in irregular angles, surrounding the actors into an offset reality that gives the film an environment with a story of its own. "Robert Wiene uses jagged sets, non-naturalistic acting and flashbacks within flashbacks to discombobulate, before delivering a twist so blindsiding it's ripped off to this day" (Smith, 2014) A sense of the unknown is key as Weine uses sets that end in dark crevices that create the feeling of mystery and another side to the  the city in which the characters can be drawn into. Possibly seen as metaphor of, Francis. 
As his twisted mind becomes maniacal, his inner self is battling to find a path within this dystopian city to enter a path of mental solidarity and calm.
The sets within the movie bring a new sense of story that hadn't been seen so early on within cinema. Based around the delusions of the main character (Francis), Weine has assembled the corrupted perspectives within this tormented characters mind. Perspectives that are shown within mangled and twisted structures that set each scene throughout the film. Topped off with an ending that is still used in cinema today.
"The stylised sets, obviously two-dimensional, must have been a lot less expensive than realistic sets and locations, but I doubt that's why the director, Robert Wiene, wanted them. He is making a film of delusions and deceptive appearances, about madmen and murder" (Ebert, 2009) These delusions are seen throughout the entirety of the film as we are bombarded by the turmoil of the characters within this setting that has been conjured up by Wiene. Pop-eyed acting, flared nostrils and highly effective uses of eye make up add to this categorisation of 'deceptive appearances' as the characters evoke emotion through every inch of their body whether that be a twitch of the finger or the raising of an eyebrow.

Fig. 3.
"It was also Germany's first post war cinematic success, and it reflects the anguish of the people who had been through four terrible years". (Stend, 2014) Those four terrible years are showcased as mangled walkways and windows at obtuse angles are seen in the backgrounds a sign of unknowing what the future hold. A frantic mind trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel yet still caught up in a hopeless nightmare of what was.
This films is a masterpiece that tells a captivating story, with works of art as it's main character.
 It is an artists dream to watch such beauty.


Stend, S. (2014) Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari - Review at: http://silentlondon.co.uk/2014/06/24/das-cabinet-des-dr-caligari-review/ (Accessed on 22-09-2015)

Smith, A (2014) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - Review at: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=138758 ( Accessed on 22-09-2015)

Ebert, R (2009) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - Review at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari-1920


Figure 1. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920) [Poster] At: http://cdn8.openculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Cabinet-Of-Dr.-Caligari-.jpg (Accessed on 22-09-2015)

Figure 2. [Film Still] At: http://www.zekefilm.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/cdc4.jpg (Accessed on 22-09-2015)

Figure 3. [Film Still] At: http://ludditerobot.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/caligari14.jpg (Accessed on 22-09-2015)


  1. Hey Tom,

    Your first review done and dusted - and in general, a fine start to your burgeoning career as a new kind of movie-goer. A couple of points for next time: in terms of presentation, remember the thing about 'centrally aligned text making everything look like a poem'?

    Also, in terms of readability, consider leaving a line's space between each new paragraph.

    I find the phrase 'A true classic amongst the greatest of movies' to be a bit too gushing, as it presumes that, as a critic and watcher of films, you've seen everything and are a man of fine taste; this might be so, but it sounds a bit over-the-top. If you wanted to convey the enthusiasm film and art lovers have for this movie, a quote that attests to the beloved status of the film would be a more impartial means of communicating its status. (You can always have more than 3 quotes!).

    I'm going to suggest that you don't use a rating of stars in conjunction with these reviews, as 'out of five' scores is perhaps too subjective and finite in terms of critique; ultimately, the value or otherwise of these films will be the ways in which production design etc are seen to contribute to narrative, so unless you're scoring that, I don't think it's helpful in this context.

    It's clear you've spent time and energy in terms of your use of language, you've got some expressive phrasing in there :) Onwards!

  2. Thank you, Phil. I see what you mean about the line ' a classic amongst the greats'. I enjoyed writing the review though, after getting past the use of first person.

  3. Fantastic first review Thomas - well done!
    It's great that you have put the film in the context of the ending of the First World War, with all the destruction and mayhem that was left in its wake, and linked that to the distortion of the sets. You have an interesting choice of quotes which have been well-incorporated and used within the text.
    Just a couple of points - make sure that your bibliography is organised alphabetically, so you would have Ebert first, followed by Smith and then Stend. This becomes much more important when you have a massive bibliography to work on, but it's a good habit to get into early on.
    Also, please adjust your formatting so that the text is not centred! It makes it difficult to read... justified or aligned to the left is the way to go :)

    Looking forward to the next review!

  4. Thank you, Jackie. I have changed the alignment of the text now as I looked back on it and saw that it can be difficult to read. Thank you for the advice on the bibliography :)