A Cabinet of Curiosities: The Cultural Influence of ‘Dr. Caligari’

Expressionism's long, spindly fingers are far-reaching, it turns out.
The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that looks at the cultural influence of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Unless you’ve had the pleasure of attending an “intro to film” class, you’ve likely heard that The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is important … but it might not be totally clear why.

No shame here. Older films can be a big hurdle for modern audiences. Especially when they are over a century old. Let’s be honest, at some point in every film lover’s career, you stop being an “audience member” and become a bonafide historian. Released in 1920 and directed by Robert Wiene, a silent-era film director of Jewish ancestry who fled Germany shortly after the Nazis seized power.

Clocking in at a crisp 77-minute runtime, the film is told from the perspective of Francis (Friedrich Feher), a young man who has just had a doozy of an experience thanks to a murderous sleepwalker named Cesare (Conrad Veidt) who is under the hypnotic spell of the titular doctor.

The video essay below details the film’s production as well as the various tendrils of its lasting impact: from paving the way for expressionism as a cinematic language to arguably acting as the first bonafide horror movie.

If you’re a fan of early film history, the origins of cinematic horror, or you just want to know why this film about a sleepy goth is so dang celebrated, press on:

Watch “‘Dr. Caligari’ Did More Than Just Invent Horror Movies | Cinema Stories”:

Who made this?

This video essay on how The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari changed cinema is by CinemaTyler. The Brooklyn-based creator has been providing some of the most in-depth analyses of auteur-driven cinema on YouTube for some time now. You can check out their YouTube channel here. CinemaTyler’s scholarship on Stanley Kubrick, particularly 2001: A Space Odyssey, is noteworthy, and absolutely worth seeking out.

More videos like this

    Meg Shields: Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.