The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Study Guide

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a silent horror film that was directed by Robert Wiene in 1920 and was distributed by Decla-Bioscop in the Weimar Republic, Germany. The film stars Werner Krauss as the titular Dr. Caligari, a psychologically unstable hypnotist who commits indirect murders by hypnotizing a somnambulist, Cesare, to carry out the act. The movie is notable for its dark tone, and unique visual imagery consisting of sharp angles and unusual landscapes.

The movie was written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer and was partially based on their experiences as pacifists during WWI and their distrust of the military and government as a result of being conscripted into war. Specifically, Dr. Caligari is a metaphor for the German government during the war, and the man whom he hypnotizes, Cesare, is a symbol for the millions of civilians who were under the power of the government during the war period.

Siegfried Kracauer has commented that the book suggests that Germany was invested in the submissive object and struggled with the political need for an authority figure in order to survive. The film has been identified as a premonition for the rise of Hitler. Critics have praised the movie and it maintains an important place in film history. Roger Ebert stated that it was "the first true horror film," while Danny Peary called it cinema's first cult film.