Robert Wiene 1920
Robert Wiene’s Cabinet of Dr Calgary has been described as both a prime example of German Expressionist cinema, and a seminal horror film. It is noted that the set design of the film features a blending of ‘real’ actual locations (offices, residences and a fair) but with a pattern and appearance that is far from the mundane or ‘normal’. The film features a heavy contrast between the standard and surreal, exemplifying that which we have come to understand as definitive German Expressionism. This is a story of a deranged fair performer and a ‘sleepwalker’, named Cesare of sorts that he compels to go out and commit murders throughout the night.
The film opens with a frame narrative with our hero, Francis speaking with an enthralled girl in the middle of a courtyard. As the story begins, the garden scene fades into a flashback and we find ourselves at a fair where we learn that a man named Dr Calgary and his subject a ‘somnambulist’ or sleepwalker wish to participate in the fair. They are met with traction in the form of the town clerk from which they must obtain a permit or license. The following morning, the clerk is found, having been stabbed to death.
As events continue to unfold, more villages living in the town mysteriously are found murdered, similarly to the town clerk. Our protagonist, Francis, suspecting Caligari, begins an investigation following the death of a close friend under the same strange circumstances. Predictably, Francis’s love interest Jane is assaulted by Cesare and just as he raises his knife to stab her, he is entranced assumably by her beauty. He then carries our out of town over his shoulder fighting all the way, rousing her father and several other townsfolk.
Cesare is eventually overcome by exhaustion and Jane escapes. She is reunited with her love, Francis and insists Cesare attacked her. Francis is convinced the brute was somehow tied to Dr Calgary however and precedes to convince the town police to search Caligari’s wagon only to find a mannequin that appeared to be Cesare. Caligari eventually escapes his pursuers, taking refuge in an asylum of sorts, only to be followed by Francis. Francis seeks out the curator of the asylum, only to discover that Caligari and the director are in fact the same person.
The following night Francis searches Caligari’s office while he sleeps, seeing out indisputable evidence of his crimes. Francis confronts him with the corpse of the dead Cesare, which causes Caligari to go insane and be confined into a strait jacket.
The final scene closes with Francis finishing…