The cabinet of Dr. Caligari

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Original title The cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Title The Cabinet of Dr.  Caligari.jpg
Country of production Germany
original language German
Publishing year 1920
length 72 minutes
Age rating FSK 6
Director Robert Wiene
script Hans Janowitz ,
Carl Mayer
production Rudolf Meinert ,
Erich Pommer
music various later accompanying music
camera Willy Hameister

The cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a German fictional film directed by Robert Wiene from 1920 that was made by Decla Film-Gesellschaft . The expressionist silent film is considered a milestone in film history .


The plot of the film is divided into six acts.

I. act

Two men are talking on a garden bench. The older one tells the younger one, Franzis, that ghosts drove him away from his house and family. Jane, Franzis' fiancée, approaches from the background. He replies that he had experienced a far stranger story with the girl, which he is now beginning to tell. The film fades back:

In Holstenwall, Franzis' hometown, a fair is announced that Franzis and his friend Alan want to visit together. Intercuts show how an old man - Dr. Caligari - wandering through the city. He wants to get permission from the city administration to present a somnambulist (sleepwalker) at the fair . The bad-tempered city secretary annoys Caligari, makes him wait endlessly and finally refers him to another officer. That allows the exhibition.

II. Act

The following night the city secretary is stabbed to death in his bed, but there is no trace of the perpetrator.

Meanwhile, the two friends visit the festival and are soon standing in front of Dr. Caligari. He loudly praises "Cesare, the somnambulist". In front of the audience he will wake up from his rigor! Curious, Franzis and Alan enter the "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ”and experience how the“ somnambulist ”wakes up. Since he “knows the future,” Alan asks him how long he will live. Answer: “Until dawn!” The friends leave sadly. On the way home they meet Jane. Franzis and Alan admit they both love the girl, but let her choose between them. However, this should not damage their friendship.

Night. Alan is sleeping. A shadowy, recognizable figure appears and penetrates the sleeping person. They fight, Alan is sinking back.

III. act

A woman tells Franzis that Alan was stabbed to death that night. Franzis immediately remembers the somnambulist's prophecy. He calls the guard and then reports to Jane and her father, Dr. Olsen, from the sinister murder. The latter obtained authorization from the police to investigate the Cesare. Dr. Olsen and Franzis rush to the Caligaris trailer. He, visibly suspicious, welcomes the two apparently friendly and allows the investigation. Meanwhile, a suspicious man is sneaking through the dark streets of Holstenwall. He tries to break into a house, but is overwhelmed by passers-by. They wrest a dagger from him and drag him to the station. It is believed that this man was used to capture the double murderer on his third attempt at murder. Franzis and Dr. Olsen during Cesare's investigation, which they then abandon. You leave the visibly relieved Caligari and hurry to the guard.

IV. Act

During interrogation, the criminal admits that he wanted to kill an old woman: "... with a stab in the side with a dagger as well, to draw suspicion on the mysterious murderer." Jane, worried by the father's long absence, is looking for him at Caligari. He invites you to visit Cesare. Horrified, she flees at the sight of him. The somnambulist's eyes follow her.

During the night Franzis sneaks back to Caligari's trailer. Through the window he watches Caligari dozing and Cesare sleeping in his chest. At the same time, however, Cesare roams the town and enters Jane's bedroom. He already draws his dagger, but overwhelmed by the girl's beauty, he lets it sink and drags her away. Your screams wake the housemates. They pursue the fleeing man. They find Jane lying by the wayside, the perpetrator escapes undetected. Jane claims that Cesare ambushed her, but Franzis, who has just returned from the trailer, asserts that this could not be because he had watched the somnambulist slumbering in the box all night.

V. act

Subheads at the end of the fifth act

At the police station, Franzis suspects the criminal who was arrested the day before, but who is still in his cell. Having become suspicious as a result, Franzis, with the support of the police, gains access to Caligari's trailer to examine Cesare's sleeping box. However, there is only one doll there. Foaming with anger, Caligari flees to an insane asylum, pursued by Franzis . There Franzis asks about a patient named Caligari, who seems to be unknown to the staff there, which is why Franzis referred Franzis to the director.

Horrified, Franzis recognizes the same Dr. Caligari. He immediately informs the other doctors. While Caligari sleeps unsuspectingly in his villa, they search the director's room with Franzis and find an old work on somnambulism - "His specialty", as one of the doctors notes. It contains an essay entitled: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ”, whose plot is similar to past events: A“ mystic ”by the name of Caligari panicked small towns in northern Italy in 1703 when a somnambul named Cesare was forced to commit a series of murders, completely under his will. With a doll faithfully copied from Cesare, he knew how to divert any suspicion.

There is also a manuscript in the office: “My diary”. It begins: “Finally ... finally! Today the admission of a somnambulist was reported. ”In flashback, the film shows how this briefing gives the director the long-awaited opportunity to fulfill the“ relentless urge ”of his life - the psychiatric secret of that Dr. Solve Caligari. To find out whether it is true "that a somnambulist can be forced to act which he would never commit while awake, which he would loathe ...", even to murder. The director's enthusiasm degenerates into obsessive delusions: "... I have to be Caligari ..."

VI. act

While Franzis and the doctors are still pondering the manuscript, Cesare is found and carried into the office of the director, who has since returned. At first he collapses at the sight of the somnambulist, but then rears up in unrestrained anger, but is overwhelmed, put in a straitjacket and locked in a cell.

The film now fades in to the first scene of Act I, the garden bench with Franzis and the old man. Franzis closes his story with the words: “And since that time the madman has not left the cell.” Both get up and take a few steps - the garden in which they are belongs to the insane asylum. Among all the madmen you can see Cesare caressing a flower. Franzis warns the old man never to let Cesare tell his fortune, otherwise he would be dead, but the old man just looks at him uncomprehendingly and moves away. Franzis now sees Jane sitting on a throne and proposes to her. But she replies: “We queens must not choose according to our hearts.” Suddenly the director of the institution appears: it is the same as before! Franzis rushes at him: “He's Caligari!” But the nurses throw themselves at Franzis, overpower the raging man and lock him in a cell. The film ends with the director's words: “I finally understand his madness. He thinks I'm that mystical Dr. Caligari. And now I also know the way to his recovery. "

Style and influence

The cabinet of Dr. Caligari premiered on February 26, 1920 in the Berlin movie theater "Marmorhaus". The work became famous for its extraordinary, novel style, which combined painted and built, grotesquely distorted backdrops with high-contrast lighting and painted light and shadow, which is why it is often referred to as a prime example of expressionist film . The buildings for the film come from Walter Reimann , Hermann Warm and Walter Röhrig and were created in the studios of the German film production company Decla-Bioscop in Neubabelsberg , today's Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam .

For the by The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari -influenced cinematic style, the term caligarism was occasionally used. After the First World War, its success helped German film to gain international artistic recognition and significantly shaped its “image”. In 1933 it was banned in Germany and in 1937 it was made part of the “ Degenerate Art ” exhibition . Today, like German Expressionism in the inter-war years in general, great importance is attributed to film history . He had a particularly strong influence on the fantastic film .

In 1962 a remake was made under the direction of Roger Kay under the title The Cabinet of Caligari . In terms of content, it is roughly based on the original.

In many elements served The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as a template for Terry Gilliam's Das Kabinett des Doktor Parnassus ("The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"). Homages to the film can also be found in the early works of Tim Burton (* 1958). The film also served as a template for the music video of the song Otherside of the Red Hot Chili Peppers from their album Californication . The music video for Temptation by Heaven 17 also clearly relates to this film.

In 1987 Anton Kaes published a book called Pictures of Germany. The return of history as a film . In 2009 (or paperback 2011) his book Shell Shock Cinema was published . Kaes describes how cinema during the Weimar Republic was shaped by the horrors of war and the collective shock of defeat. He also considers films like Nosferatu (1922) , Die Nibelungen (1924) and Metropolis (1925/26) to be shaped by it. (See also film history .)

The British cold wave trio Das Kabinette (sic) named itself after the film and produced the single The Cabinet in 1983 , the text of which traces the plot of the film.

Interpretation by Siegfried Kracauer

In his influential book Von Caligari zu Hitler (1947), Siegfried Kracauer drew a social-psychological parallel between the film material and the emerging National Socialism . Caligari thus appears as one of the many tyrant figures in Weimar cinema who point to a collective psychological disposition that unconsciously anticipate and sometimes long for later developments. Kracauer interpreted the framework story added to the screenplay by Janowitz and Mayer by director Robert Wiene as an act of political repression, since he had turned the alleged intention of the film into its opposite: with the reversal of the role of the insane and the healthy, the authority in the form of Dr. . Caligaris has been reaffirmed. Kracauer (1958: 73) writes on this: “Janowitz and Mayer knew very well why they fought against the framework story so bitterly: It distorted their actual intentions or even turned them into the opposite. While the original plot exposed the madness inherent in the addiction to authority, Wienes CALIGARI glorified authority as such and accused its adversary of madness. A revolutionary film was thus transformed into a conformist film. "

Kracauer relied on notes by Hans Janowitz , written in American exile from the end of the 1930s , in which the latter claimed that the figure of Caligari was supposed to symbolize the authority of the defeated German Empire in World War I , while Cesare stood for the subjects assigned to murder . However, this version of the genesis is now doubted by film historians: it is very likely that it was a retrospective interpretation and mystification of Janowitz.

In the area of ​​the legend, the assertion that Fritz Lang, originally intended as director, was responsible for the framework story should probably also be referred to . He stated that he suggested the opening scene in order to better introduce the viewer to the unusual aesthetics. The turning point at the end of the film cannot be traced back to him. Contrary to Janowitz's later claims, the original script already contained a framework story.


ZDF (1983)

The first restoration of the film dates from 1980. In this film, based on the second version from 1921, only the subtitles were replaced by those from the first version from 1920. This black and white version was shown on ZDF for the first time on May 15, 1983 with accompanying music newly composed by Peter Michael Hamel .

Federal Archives (1984)

In 1983/1984 a color reconstruction of the film was made by the film archive of the Federal Archives (73 min .; world premiere on February 11, 1984 in the Filmforum Düsseldorf). This version was broadcast for the first time with music by Giuseppe Becce on the television station Radiotelevisione Svizzera on December 5, 1988 and on June 1, 1994 on the television station Arte with a new film music by Rainer Viertlböck and Michael Hornstein .

Film Museum Munich (1984)

On behalf of the Munich Film Museum , another color version was made based on a color negative in 1984. However, the result was unsatisfactory, so that the Film Museum never put this version into circulation, but only showed it occasionally in the museum.

Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique (1994)

In 1994, the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique, in collaboration with the Munich Film Museum, based on viraged copies from Brussels and Montevideo, together with the subtitles kept by the Deutsche Kinemathek - Museum für Film und Fernsehen, a black and white negative, which was then colored. This version was performed at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna .

Murnau Foundation (2014)

On the basis of the camera negative preserved in the film archive of the Federal Archives, the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation created a digitally restored version of the film in a high-resolution 4K version.

The digital image restoration was carried out by L'Immagine Ritrovata - Film Restoration & Conservation in Bologna in 2012 and 2013. The first act missing in the camera negative was supplemented with the help of various copies. In a further 67 shots, missing images and image jumps were compensated for with additions from various contemporary rental copies from international film archives. Since the German distribution copy is no longer preserved, the original virage was reconstructed using two Latin American nitro copies, which are considered the two earliest copies to have survived and are now in the Düsseldorf Film Museum and the Cineteca di Bologna . The templates for the subtitles were the flash titles contained in the camera negative and a 16 mm copy from 1935 from the Deutsche Kinemathek.

On behalf of ZDF and Arte, the New York composer and multi-instrumentalist John Zorn created a film music that he played on the Karl Schuke organ at the world premiere of the digitally restored version on February 9, 2014 as part of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival performed by the Berlin Philharmonic . The restored 75-minute version of the film was broadcast on Arte along with the live recorded music on February 12, 2014. The German Film and Media Assessment (FBW) in Wiesbaden awarded this version the title “particularly valuable”.

For the Babylon Orchester Berlin , the live orchestra of the Berlin Babylon cinema , a further film score was created for the version restored by the Murnau Foundation on the occasion of the centenary of the original film. Most of the music was composed by Giuseppe Becce , the arrangement is by Hans Brandner and Marcelo Falcão.


  • Ilona Brennicke, Joe Hembus : Classics of the German silent film. 1910-1930. Citadel Movie Books. Goldmann, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-442-10212-X .
  • Olaf Brill: The Caligari Complex. Belleville, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-923646-77-7 . (Zugl. Bremen, Univ., Diss., 2003)
  • Paul Duncan, Jürgen Müller (Eds.): Film Noir, 100 All-Time Favorites. Taschen Verlag, Cologne 2014, ISBN 978-3-8365-4353-8 . (Pp. 50–57)
  • Thomas Elsaesser : Weimar Cinema and After: Germany's Historical Imaginary. Routledge, London 2000, ISBN 978-0-415-01235-5 .
  • Regine-Mihal Friedman: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. In: Michael Omasta, Brigitte Mayr, Christian Cargnelli (eds.): Carl Mayer, Scenar [t] is. A script from him was already a film - "A script by Carl Mayer was already a film". Synema, Vienna 2003, ISBN 3-901644-10-5 .
  • Fred Gehler: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. In: Günther Dahlke, Günther Karl (Hrsg.): German feature films from the beginnings to 1933. A film guide. Henschel Verlag, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-89487-009-5 , p. 37 ff.
  • Uli Jung, Walter Schatzberg: Robert Wiene. The Caligari director. Henschel Verlag, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-89487-233-0 .
  • Siegfried Kracauer: From Caligari to Hitler. A psychological history of German film. (Translation: Ruth Baumgarten, Karsten Witte) (stw 479), Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1974, 2005, ISBN 3-518-28079-1 , frequent editions (first abridged edition: Rowohlt, Reinbek 1958; transl. Friedrich Walter).
  • Rudolf Kurtz : Expressionism and Film. Chronos, Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-0340-0874-7 (first edition 1926, 2nd edition 1965 by Hans Rohr, Zurich).
  • Klaus Loscher: Werner Krauss. Tragedy of a genius. Self-published, Coburg / Sonnefeld 1984.
  • Carl Mayer, Hans Janowitz: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Screenplay for Robert Wiene's film from 1919/20. With an introductory essay by Siegbert S. Prawer and materials for the film by Uli Jung and Walter Schatzberg, Edition text + kritik, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-88377-484-7 .
  • Hans Günther Pflaum : Loss of will. RWs "Dr. Caligari “1920. In: Peter Buchka (Ed.): German moments. A sequence of images for a typology of the film. (Series: “Off-Texts” 1, Munich Filmmuseum). Belleville, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-923646-49-6 , p. 28 f. (P. 29: production design) (first: Süddeutsche Zeitung , 1995)
  • David Robinson: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. BFI Publishing, London 1997, ISBN 0-85170-645-2 .
  • Izabela Taraszczuk: Expressionism in German Film. Robert Wienes “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari “- vision of a totalitarian state or hallucinations of a mentally ill person? In: Augustyn Mańczyk, Paweł Zimniak (eds.): Germanistyka. Studia i materiały. Volume 15, Wydawnictwo Wyższej Szkoły Pedagogicznej, Zielona Góra 2000, ISBN 83-7268-015-9 , pp. 211-216.
  • Anton Kaes: 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ': Expressionism and Cinema. In: Ted Perry (Ed.): Masterpieces of Modern Cinema. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis 2006, ISBN 978-0-253-21858-2 , pp. 41-59.
  • Anke Wilkening: The restoration of “Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari ". In: VDR contributions to the preservation of art and cultural assets. ISSN  0943-5638 , issue 2/2014, pp. 27-47.

Web links

Commons : The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ "Everything moves in the Weimar Republic", accessed on April 20, 2015.
  2., BZ: “When Hollywood was jealous of Babelsberg” / BZ-Online-Archiv, January 20, 2014, accessed on April 20, 2015.
  3. ^ Anton Kaes: Pictures of Germany. edition text + kritik, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-88377-260-7 .
  4. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari . Screenplay by Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz for Robert Wiene's film from 1919/20. Ed. Text and criticism, München 1995, ISBN 3-88377-484-7 .
  5. a b c d Good copies. Restorations and Editions (I). In: Filmblatt , Volume 6 (Summer 2001), No. 16, pp. 65–76 (70–73) ( online , PDF; 8.34  MB), ISSN  1433-2051 .
  6. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Information on (accessed on February 20, 2014).
  7. ^ Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation: Project - The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. ( Memento from February 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive ).
  8. Julika Meinert: Dr. Caligari has the sleepwalker murdered again. In: The world . January 27, 2014.
  9. ^ Website of L'Immagine Ritrovata - Film Restoration & Conservation.
  10. Libri, DVD & Gadgets - Cinestore. Retrieved November 17, 2017 .
  11. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. In: Catalog of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival , p. 357 .
  12. Berlin International Film Festival: Berlinale Classics. Restoration of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari almost complete. Press release from December 9, 2013.
  13. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari on
  14. 100 years! The cabinet of Dr. Caligari. ASK HELMUT, accessed on December 31, 2019 .