Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr Caligari) is now a century old. Even if you've never seen it, much will be hauntingly familiar. The plot is simple enough: wild-eyed showman Dr Caligari (Werner Krauss) has an unsettling stage act involving willowy Cesare (Conrad Veidt), who we're told has been asleep for almost all of his 23 years. Krauss has complete power over this somnambulist, waking him for brief intervals to foretell the future. One eager member of the audience is horrified to be told he'll die that very night—and then does. We soon learn that Caligari sends Cesare out at night to commit murder but, in a shock twist, “Caligari” is revealed to be the director of the nearby asylum. Then, in another shock twist, all of this turns out to be the gothic fantasy of another of the patients (Friedrich Fehér). The staff and other patients at the asylum have all been given roles in his delusion, and the exaggerated, Expressionist production design of the film is the world as seen by, in the language of the time, “a madman”.
Friday, July 24, 2020
Caligari in the Lancet Psychiatry
I've written about the 100 year-old movie Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari in the August 2020 issue of the Lancet Psychiatry. You need to pay to read the whole thing, but here's a preview: