Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). 1920. Germany. Directed by Robert Wiene. Silent, with score on soundtrack. German intertitles; English subtitles. 75 min.
Screenplay by Carl Mayer, Hans Janowitz. With Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Fehér, Lil Dagover. Routinely cited as one of the greatest films ever made, this classic of German Expressionism can now be seen in entirely new light, thanks to a painstaking 4K digital restoration by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung Foundation and Cineteca di Bologna that, for the first time, integrates _Caligari_’s camera negative from the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv with the best elements from the world’s surviving prints. The result more closely approximates how the film looked on its theatrical release nearly a century ago, its image sharper and its color tinting truer to Wiene’s haunting vision. A sinister tale of psychosis and murder, Caligari is set in a warped Gothic landscape of disorienting angles and jarring contrasts of light and shadow. “[W]hat matters is to create states of anxiety and terror,” Lotte H. Eisner writes in The Haunted Screen. “In Caligari, the Expressionist treatment was unusually successful in evoking the ‘latent physiognomy’ of a small medieval town, with its dark twisting back-alleys boxed in by crumbling houses whose inclined facades keep out all daylight....The bizarre exaltation brooding over the synthetic sets of Caligari brings to mind Edschmid’s statement that ‘Expressionism evolves in a perpetual excitation.’” Caligari screens at Film Forum from October 31 through November 6; deepest thanks to Kino Lorber Films.