Genres: Drama, Horror,
Runtime: 51 minutes
Studio: Decla-Bioscop AG
Review done by: Jonny Cage
Online since: February 20th, 2006
Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover,
Hans Heinrich von Twardowski, Rudolf Lettinger, Ludwig Rex
Director: Robert Wiene
Synopsis: Alan relates the story of traveling magician Dr Caligari and
Cesare. Their arrival in a town coincides with savage killings. Secretly
Caligari was an asylum director who hypnotizes Cesare to re enact
murders. But the final reel contains something which will leave an
audience shattered. It blows away all your moral certainties and beliefs.
This is the true power of its horror. To leave you vulnerable and
uncertain of what you feel was secure and certain.
A traveling fair has stopped in the small town of Holstenwall. Along with it
comes a shifty fellow named Dr. Caligari. He obtains his permit from the
town clerk to operate his sideshow; one featuring a somnambulist named
Cesare. The next morning, the town clerk is found dead – murdered!
Alan begs his friend Francis to go but, when his future is predicted by
the somnambulist, he finds that he only has until dawn to live. Cesare’s
prophesy bears fruit as a town-wide manhunt begins for the mysterious
killer. All seems calm after a man is captured trying to murder an elderly
woman; they believe they have found the killer. That night, Jane, Francis’
fiancée, is attacked and carried off into the sunrise – by none other than
Caligari’s Cesare! Can Francis discover the truth about Caligari before it’s
too late? I was a bit apprehensive about reviewing a movie that is so old.
I figured, however, that if I plan to be an influential movie critic, I’d be
better off knowing my roots. Thus, I decided to give it my best shot. So
here you go…
The story is slightly hard to follow simply because of the lack of script.
But from the script they do give you, you are able to decipher enough to
understand the storyline. I thought that the story was the most
compelling part of the film. I loved how at the end they made it seem
possible that the whole thing was in Francis’ head; that he was the crazy
one all along. I find it interesting simply because we see that concept
from time to time, today. But for such a story to be told back in the
1920’s…my God! I would not be surprised if, after seeing this film back in
the day, people walked out of the “picture show” and fainted right there
in the street. The acting was typical for the time; overly dramatic and
dry. But one cannot judge a film on acting alone. I must say that even
though the acting was more comical than believable, the movie was in no
way impaired by over-dramatics.
The effects, also, were typical of the time. Not much can be said here –
simply because the effects back then were more about camera angles
and how to fade to the next shot. But I can mention the set…cause,
damn. From what I understand, this is considered an expressionist-art
film…which would explain the Dr. Seuss-like sets. If the sets would have
been real and/or real-looking, like today’s, than I think the film would
have been even creepier. But I gotta hand it to the set coordinator(s)
…you really have an eye for the abstract. The sets and dramatics of the
day seemed to hinder the full strength of the film. I think that if this film
were to be remade…it could be amazing. But overall, the story, being the
main part of the film, was, and is still, so compelling that it warrants a
high rating. Here is to one of the most influential film of the 20th
century. A film that sanctioned the birth of the “plot twist”. To the
director and writers…I thank you.