A quick read on “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1919)

“The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari” (1919). Notice the sheer psychological brutality (a trademark of German Expressionism) in this original poster design.

Every visual artist should see, Robert Weine’s “The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari” (1919).

Caligari is arguably the first true horror film, made before “horror” was even a genre. It even has a twist ending. It has influenced directors from Stanley Kubrick to Rob Zombie.

“Destiny” (1921)
Absolutely gorgeous futuristic, art deco design in this poster for Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” (1927)
“M” (1931)
“Fury” (1936)

Fritz Lang (one of my all time favorite directors) of Destiny (1921), Metropolis (1927), M (1931), Fury (1936), and Scarlet Street (1945) (among many other films) fame was originally set to direct The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari but had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts.

“Scarlet Street” (1945)

Robert Weine did an amazing job as we all know. Much of what he did in making Caligari was motivated not just by the exquisite and psychologically penetrating German Expressionist aesthetic that the film undeniably has, but also because of practical concerns. For instance, because electricity was tightly rationed in post WWI Germany, Weine had beams of light painted on set pieces (the entire set was made for only $800), and because the set was tightly constrained spatially, he was forced to shoot at odd angles (this gave birth to the concept of the “Dutch” or “Deutsch” angle, often used in film noir).

Notice the harsh, very directional light painted on the sets.
The rigid geometry of the sets and lights is very characteristic of German Expressionism and cinema in the Wiemar Republic at large.

Anyway, as I said, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari is a must see for all visual artists and also fans of horror and of a unforeseen or twist ending. A print of the film that I would recommend can be found here for free. The running time clocks in at 1 hour 16 minutes.