The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

A poster showing a figure in black kneeling next to a figure in white who lies unconscious on the ground. With one hand, the kneeling figure touches the lying figure’s left upper arm and long hair. At the top of the poster, yellow text appears on a red background.

Poster for Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Germany, 1920, 75 mins.)

Robert Wiene’s silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Germany, 1920, 75 mins.; presented with English intertitles) is a twisted story of hypnosis, somnambulism, murder, and mystery set in a distorted world of shadows. Termed the “first true horror film,” it is both the definitive work of German Expressionism and a landmark of cinema history at large. This stellar 4k restoration recreates the tinting of the original, adding to the feverish atmosphere of the film. Wiene undertook the project in the aftermath of World War I, while the horrors of industrialized warfare and fanatical nationalism persisted. Political instability, hyperinflation, mass unemployment, and urban conflict defined the 1920s in Germany, inspiring hallucinatory films full of nightmares, mystery, crime, madness, and desire. 

“Films at the Whitney” presents two striking examples from this unique creative period, in conjunction with the exhibition Munch and Kirchner: Anxiety and Expression at the Yale University Art Gallery. Cosponsored by the Whitney Humanities Center and the Gallery’s Martin A. Ryerson Lectureship Fund. Film series organized by Lorenz Hegel, Ph.D. candidate in the combined program in Film and Media Studies and German Studies, Yale University.

The screening will be held at the Alice Cinema (Humanities Quadrangle, 320 York Street).