The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)

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What is so disturbing about Caligari, is how readily we accept the twisted world we are presented. IT’s captivating and strange, but we soon becomes habituated to it, and never once do we question why we are presented with such an extreme and inverted world. It speaks for our own perceptions of reality, and how most of us could never hope to recognize that we have been “invaded” by madness. What is more frightening than being unaware than you are crazy? That everything you know and accept is a delusion?

Though the film remains a solely original work, unsurpassed and unmatched in it’s execution of elaborate expressionistic sets, I have to admit, I find it’s particular approach to expressionistic cinema a little stale compared to the work of other contemporary German filmmakers of the era. The effects that Murnau created in Nosferatu using light and long shots… or the madness and intensity that Lang conveys in his silent work like Metropolis, utilizing elaborate sets but also engaging the camera with far more interest than Wiene. It becomes apparent, at least to me, that cinema is truly the medium of light.

It’s a film I find more fascinating than it is engaging… I enjoy watching it to a certain extent, and it’s ideas are certainly disturbing, but it still strikes me as a very well executed gimmick. I wish I liked it more than I do :/ Perhaps seeing it beautifully restored (my own copy is pretty terrible) on a big screen would inspire me a little more, focus my attention better (I still find it a little confusing even after seeing it several times) and be a far more enriching experience.

One response to “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)

  1. it’s so interesting how apparently that beginning and coda in the **spoiler** “normal” world **end spoiler** was tacked on at the last minute from fear that the audience wouldn’t buy into the movie otherwise (and it was Fritz Lang’s idea, no less). Usually the tacked on ‘that explains everything’ or happy ending spells disaster, but I thought it MADE this film. What a clever twist.

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