Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari directed by Robert Wiene is one of the most earliest films I have seen and a typical silent movie as the performers and set are theatrical so the actors perform with dramatic emotions and movement jestures to react with the scene space around them to describe what is going on. The plot was confusing and the sets reflect a horror nightmare with the mental asylum and killer.C J Brooks from http://www.wildsound-filmmaking-feedback-events.com/the_cabinet_of_dr_caligari.html sums the film up nicely "The caricatured sets, the distorted faces, the exaggerated shadows; the dour disposition: all lend itself to a brew of surrealism and fantasy."

Sets are paintings and stage props so has a school set production feel. The expressionist painting style captured the confusion nightmare theme. The use of the curtain to enter the cabinet was clever because it looked like a circus tent. Donald J. Levit from http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1003361-cabinet_of_dr_caligari/ gives an interestingly similar view "Even if taken as social or Freudian statement, Caligari's real star attraction is in the visuals."

The lights used also had a theatrical theme and really helped to describe the set around the characters. I particular liked the use of spotlighting to high light individual character's faces so that the audience can see the reactions and expressions to what is happening in the plot. These lights then faded out slowly to black to mark the end of the scene so that when a light reappears you are introduced to a new set and situation. The casting of the shadow to show the killer mudering the women was effective because it felt very horror - like. Fred Thom from http://www.plume-noire.com/movies/cult/caligari.html explains that "Everything of course is seen through the Expressionist eye of the camera."


  1. Hi Adam,

    Well done for completing all the tutorials. Great stuff, keep it up.


  2. Nice review, Adam - you avoid the pitfalls of stating the obvious about an 'old silent movie' (i.e. that's it's old and silent!) :-)