The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Robert Wiene (1919)

There’s a lot to love about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – murder and torture and ghouls, oh my! But what’s staggering about this silent classic is how well it’s art-design drives forth the twisted narrative.

Horror, awakens!

Horror, awakens!

So what seethed under the cultures skin that inspired the visual mayhem of German director Robert Wiene?


Well, it’s all in the schokolade… I mean context!


Yes, the sweet, sweet cultural context.

There was a time when conservative art simply served as a mirror to beautiful people.  

Georges Seurat -  Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand-Jatte.

Georges Seurat anyone?

Scenes often boasted the benign amusements of aristocracy that most folk found profoundly uninspiring.

Homely woman on coach.

Homely woman on coach.

A dudes dong.

A dudes dong.

This resulted in a collective “fuck you” from artists whose reaction was most apparent in the early twentieth-century.

The youth screamed for new noise and with the cultural impact of a crashing vorschlaghammer gave way to the “ism”.







One such movement sought to portray emotions rather than imitate physical reality and became known as Expressionism.

The Widow -  Kathe Kollwitz

The Widow – Kathe Kollwitz

Although crude, expressionism used extreme distortion to underline an emotional experience.

This was a reaction to the dehumanizing effect of war, industrialization and the cancerous growth of cities.

Die Brücke -  Fritz Bleyl (1905)

Die BrückeFritz Bleyl (1905)

The stories of Expressionist Films often dealt with themes of betrayal, alienation and madness.

Das Kabinett Des Doktor Caligari (1919)

Das Kabinett Des Doktor Caligari (1919)

The deranged architecture, perverted landscapes and darkened characters orchestrated by Hermann Warm and Hans Janowitz speak of the world but more so the protagonists afflicted mind.


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is an amazing example of powerful cinema executed with furious style and originality.

A lesson to modern filmmakers in seeking inspiration from art movement of their time rather than serving the interest of box office success or trends in contemporary movies.

For their daring vision, experimentation and exploration of storytelling we say Danke Schön!

Robert Wiene (1873-1938) -   Modernist, Expressionist, Filmmaker

Robert Wiene (1873-1938) –
Collaborator, Expressionist, Filmmaker.


4 thoughts on “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Robert Wiene (1919)

  1. scrolling through the article, what pops out are the freaky and dark pics here. love the style and era. also lot’s of foreign words everywhere… *in some weird french/russian mangled accent* zis i enjoy.
    Anywho, the point of this post was to say…
    for some reason after reading the article the art of Gustave Dore came to mind. Perhaps the dark subject matter, or perhaps because he’s such a dapper chap too.

    • Agreed, Dore had swagger.

      Dante’s Inferno – “Vision of the Empyrean”.

      The Holy Bible – “Death of Abel” and “World Destroyed By Water”.

      Also, “Andromeda” are some of my favorites for sheer scale and detail.

      Thanks for sharing the coolness!

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