Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Review

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Review

by David McCleery.

The obscure direction, artwork and set design of this silent 1920s epic black and white crime stroke horror classic is very much bordering on the unsettling, macabre dream state.  With the clever use of light and shadow, it plays on the psychology of the imagination in such a way that leads the audience through the world of an unbalanced and tormented mind.
The distorted town is an eclectic mix of two dimensional studio sets with angles, spikes and twists to the buildings that lean inward as they ascend with the narrow crooked streets all leading into darkness. The interior walls too are a variety of dimly lit acute angles, curves, and grime that deliver the impression of a cold and depressive space. The inhabitants are blatantly unaware of their bizarre and absurdly weird surroundings as if it’s a perfectly acceptable way to live.
The area surrounding the town is also a studio construction with narrow meandering paths adorned with black lifeless trees and knife-like grass. Although the light was projected more onto these areas, it only set to highlight the belief further of a distorted and surreal world in which the town belongs.
As there was no dialogue, the story line was easy to follow and only required the minimal of text to explain, guide and drive it along. Even the text font was cleverly distorted above a prominent, angular, abstract design as not to detract the eye away from the suspense and obscurity of the movie.
The orchestral music score accompanied the scenes beautifully. The controlled arrangement followed the mood of the light and dark moments of each surreal scene with effortless ease, keeping the story-line flowing freely throughout.
The director Robert Wiene was a creative genius who was clearly well ahead of his time with artistic film making concepts. Most of the scenes are shot from one angle with the occasional manic faced close up for maximum expression as to increase the suspense and drama to the picture.
Wiene’s approach to expressionism cinema has most definitely inspired future generations in the film making industry. It is clear today the profound effect Weine has in the imaginations of directors such as Tim Burton.   


  1. Hi Dave - welcome to the world of the film review :)

    The is a promising start - you have produced a thoughtful discussion around the use of shape, lighting etc here. What you need to include in your next review are some images to support your observations, and also at least 3 quotes from recognised published sources (not Wikipedia!). Both the quotes and the images should be referenced using the Harvard method - see here

    Looking forward to your next review!

  2. Hi Dave - a few nitpicks ... spelling-wise you've got a bazaar instead of 'bizarre' - and you refer to the film's impressionism when I think you may mean expressionism. That said, well done on getting your first review up and out there - in prep for Metropolis, take a look at the brief and what it says about using images and published sources - and using the Harvard Method for referencing.