Silent Film Review: 1920’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Now that a film that’s still in theatres has been looked at, how about time to set the range of films we’re going to be discussing? Let’s go to the dawn of feature film and look at one of the first examples of zombies in film: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari!


This is the first silent film that I ever watched, though that was before I got in the habit of reviewing historically significant films I’d watched. At the time a lot of it went over my head, and some things are still strange to me, but it certainly took a few watchings and some research to get to the level of understanding I have of the film today. It makes me wonder, how was this film received in the 1920s, when such things were virtually impossible?

Dr. Caligari is a film that is shockingly nonsensical at first glimpse. In fact, it is one of the few instances of “it’s all the narrator’s interpretation” that I feel is done well. The entire film exists within a framing device: that of Francis explaining to an audience surrogate how he interprets events to be taking place. There exists some liberty of interpretation here, but when I get to that point I’ll explain why I feel that my initial understanding of the film was less accurate than my current one.  Read the review.

Watch the movie.

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