Robert Wiene Criticism - Essay

Siegfried Kracauer (essay date 1947)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Caligari," in From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, Princeton University Press, 1947, pp. 61-76.

[A German philosopher as well as a social and arts critic, Kracauer emigrated to the United States when the Nazis came to power. In the following excerpt, he examines the production history, themes, and techniques of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, arguing that this film best exemplifies his thesis that German popular culture provided evidence of a "mass psychological predisposition" in the German people to accept and embrace Adolf Hitler's fascism.]

[The original story of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is located in a...

(The entire section is 4692 words.)

Lotte H. Eisner (essay date 1969)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Beginnings of the Expressionist Film," in The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt, translated by Roger Greaves, University of California Press, 1969, pp. 17-38.

[Widely recognized as an eminent film critic, Eisner began her career in Germany in the mid-1920s, then fled to France in the 1930s following the rise of nazism. In the following excerpt, which is reprinted from the 1969 translation and revision of the 1952 French version of her The Haunted Screen, Eisner examines the Expressionist aspects of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.]

The leaning towards violent contrast—which in Expressionist...

(The entire section is 2231 words.)

S. S. Prawer (essay date 1980)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Iconography of the Terror-film: Wiene's Caligari," in Caligari's Children: The Film as Tale of Terror, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1980, pp. 164-200.

[Prawer is a German-born English critic and educator specializing in German literature, particularly the work of Heinrich Heine. In the following excerpt, taken from his book which examines the masterpieces of Gothic cinema and theorizes on the function and significance of the artistic expression of horror, he provides an extended discussion of the thematic, narrative, and stylistic innovations of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and assesses its influence on subsequent films and filmmakers.]


(The entire section is 13578 words.)

Thomas Elsaesser (essay date 1982)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Social Mobility and the Fantastic: German Silent Cinema," in Wide Angle, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1982, pp. 14-25.

[Elsaesser is an English film scholar and educator who has done extensive research on German cinema. In the following excerpt, he examines the various ways in which The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari can be interpreted.]

In Dr. Caligari, … the initial situation contains a social aspect involving class and status differences. Caligari, asking deferentially for a permit to put up his tent show, is treated by the town clerk and his subordinates in a brusque, humiliating and insulting manner. There can be little doubt that this scene transmits to the...

(The entire section is 1991 words.)

Nancy Ketchiff (essay date 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Dr. Caligari's Cabinet: A Cubist Perspective," in The Comparatist, Vol. VIII, May, 1984, pp. 7-13.

[In the following excerpt, Ketchif argues that The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is more significantly Cubist than Expressionistic and suggests that the film's manipulation of space mirrors its main themes.]

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is an early example of a rejection of early cinematic tradition with its stress of illusion and narrative. The film attempts to maintain a sequential unfolding of narrative while introducing the self-conscious mode of self-reflexion. Narrative had previously demanded illusion, and the makers of Caligari were forced...

(The entire section is 2941 words.)

Mike Budd (essay date 1990)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari: Production, Reception, History," in Close Viewings: An Anthology of New Film Criticism, edited by Peter Lehman, The Florida State University Press, 1990, pp. 333-52.

[Budd is an American film scholar and educator who has written extensively on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. In the following excerpt, which summarizes much of his previous scholarship on the film, he places The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in its historical and artistic contexts.]

Films, like other cultural products, are made and received within particular historical situations. Thus close analyses of film texts will be most revealing when they...

(The entire section is 5157 words.)