Biography of Robert Wiene

Robert Wiene was a prominent German film director and screenwriter of the silent era and is known for his films belong to the genre of "expressionism." His best-known films include The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Hands of Orlac, and Raskolnikow an adaptation of the novel Crime and Punishment. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is his best known film and remains a favorite of film critics and audiences alike, who view it as one of the first horror films.

Born in 1973 in Germany, Wiene started out working in the theater, and broke into film as a set and scenery designer. This adeptness with scenery and striking visuality is on full display in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with its tilted cameras, elaborate set pieces, and singular visual style. Wiene was not the first choice to direct the film, and many wondered if he was up to the task, but his treatment of the uncanny story earned him a place among filmmaker royalty. "Expressionism" was an artistic movement that was particularly popular in Germany following World War I, and was defined by its investment in intellectual topics as well as investigations of madness and betrayal. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a quintessential expressionist film, and its central story is thought to reflect the pacifism of its screenwriters, Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer.

Because he was Jewish, Wiene fled Germany during the Nazi occupation, first going to Budapest, and then ending up in London. In London, he convened with Jean Cocteau, who wanted to remake The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, this time with sound. Wiene died of cancer in Paris while shooting a spy movie.

Study Guides on Works by Robert Wiene