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.

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    Meg Shields: Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).