Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A-Z Challenge: C is for...Caligari!

C is for...The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
Image Source: Light Keeps Me Company
I'll be honest, this entry has been backdated because I missed 3 days of the challenge due to my poor planning (heh...), but better a little late than never I guess? So today, C is for...Caligari! Or more specifically, German director Robert Weine's stylish silent, 'Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari' ('The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari', 1920). I could write a whole essay on this movie, as it's one of my favourites, but I'll spare you all the boredom this time and keep it fairly short!

 Dr. Caligari and Cesare the Somnambulist
Dr. Caligari - Werner Krauss
Cesare - Conrad Veidt
Francis - Friedrich Feher
Jane Olsen - Lil Dagover
Alan - Hans Heinrich von Twardowski
Dr. Olsen - Rudolf Lettinger

Classic horror
Psychological horror
German Expressionist

A young man, Francis, recounts a story to a man seated next to him about his fiancee, Jane, and the strange events that they both experienced. The film then continues in an extended flashback, beginning with Francis and his friend, Alan, visiting a fair in their home town. Dr. Caligari is there with Cesare, a somnambulist. Caligari claims that Cesare has been asleep for 25 years and, waking under Caligari's hypnotic control, is now able to see into the future. Alan asks Cesare how long his life will be, to which Cesare replies: "The time is short. You die at dawn!". This prediction comes true, as Alan is murdered that night and Francis is convinced that Cesare was responsible. This leads Francis to begin following Cesare and Dr. Caligari.

Cesare fleeing, carrying Jane
The next night, Cesare goes into Jane's bedroom, intending to kill her, but cannot bring himself to murder such a beautiful woman and kidnaps her instead. The townspeople go after him, and after running from them for some time, Cesare passes out and dies of exhaustion. At the same time the police discover that Dr. Caligari has fled and Francis follows him to an insane asylum, where he attempts to find out the truth about the doctor.

Is it any good?:

In a word: yes! But just to elaborate a little...

If you don't like black & white, silent horrors or aesthetically unrealistic films, and aren't at all interested in film history, then you probably won't like 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' much. However, as one of the first films of the horror genre and with the concept of a twist ending - still used today - to boot, this is an excellent example of early cinema, with a bit of depth. What's more, the film manages to create eerie abduction and murder scenes without a drop of blood anywhere. Through a clever use of lighting, the killing is depicted predominantly in shadow and silhouette. Of course, by today's standards, the acting may be seen as ridiculously exaggerated, but then again, all the battling, slow-motion epics and screaming, gory slasher movies of late are pretty damn exaggerated too, don't you think?

I wouldn't say it's "scary" as such, but there's definitely a creepy feel throughout. It's unmistakably a horror. 

This post is part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge.


  1. I need to see that film!

    1. Might be your kind of thing, I think ^^ I even prefer it to Nosferatu XD

  2. OOh, interesting! The things I learn....


    A to Z co-host

  3. I like these kind of films. I think that the weird is scarier than the typical slash and bloody films of contemporary film.

    I will hunt this down and peep it out. Thanks.

    1. I agree. There's something much more unsettling about the things you can't see, but are imagined.

      I hope you get a chance to watch it.
      Thanks for stopping by!

    2. Still haven't found it, so off I go to the torrent sites. lol

    3. If all else fails, I think there are some versions up on YouTube, as it's in the public domain (except in Germany). There's also a DVD version of it that comes with the film 'Genuine' (another strange art horror by the same director) as an extra as well. :)

  4. I found you on the A to Z -- great blog! I've never taken the time to explore the older horror films, but I can definitely appreciate their value and contributions to some of the earlier, modern stuff. ("Earlier, modern" is what I think of when I think of the movies that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. "The Last House on the Left," the original "Texas Chainsaw" movie, the old "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th." Those are my kinds of scary movies.)

    One of these days, I'll catch up on some of these flicks from the old era. In the meantime, keep up the great work, and happy blogging!

    1. Thanks for reading the entry!

      Movies like 'Halloween' and 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' are great too! The theme to 'Halloween' used to creep me out more than the actual movie when I was a kid, haha.

      They're probably a lot more directly influential on contemporary horror than '...Caligari', not least because it's totally different types of horror. Maybe somewhat experimental films like 'Suspiria' (the lighting etc.) are more influential on modern filmakers as well. Either way, they've all got their own charm to them. :)

  5. I've actually never seen a silent movie.

    1. In general, I'm more responsive to sound than visuals, but for some reason silent movies have a strange draw.

  6. Okay, cool! I've been looking for a horror blog. Get caught up!

    1. I'm trying lol
      Love your monster blog by the way!

  7. I am scared. It gives me goosebumps.
    Do check out my G at at GAC a-z

  8. Great post! Not to worry about running a bit behind on the A-Z, I am too! Will certainly be popping back to your site, glad I found it.

    1. Thanks!
      Good to know I'm not the only one lagging behind, haha :)


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