It’s almost hard to believe that the horror classic “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” was released a little more than 95 years ago. The quintessential German Expressionist silent film still strikes fear in its viewers today, thanks to its dedicated and haunting art direction and disturbing mise-en-scéne of jagged edges, highly contrasting use of light and the incorporation of oblique and curving sets. And that terror is about to reach totally new levels with a brand new 4k restoration, thanks to the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation.
The new restoration, along with the musical accompaniment, beckons its viewers to reflect on the quiet delicacy of director Robert Wiene’s film and its unfortunate scapegoat, Cesare. The high resolution allows us to focus on each and every filmic detail like never before. Gone are the grains and scratches of previous cuts, instead we are exposed to a reimagined terror, one that makes you focus on every aspect of what you see, from the cracks in Cesare’s smile to the wispy deranged hair of Dr. Caligari.
The film follows the story of sinister Dr. Caligari as he uses a somnambulist (old-timey talk for sleepwalker) named Cesare to perform murders in the night. Akin to future mad scientist films – such as “Frankenstein,” “The Invisible Man” and other Universal horror flicks – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” was ahead of its time in demonstrating the tropes of horror. Add to that the nightmarish space rock music of DJ Raphaël Marionneau, and you will have a terrifying experience as Cesare’s ghoulishly detailed face takes up the screen in a way in which you had never seen before.
The digitalization was a collaborative process between the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation, their main sponsor Bertelsmann SE & Co. KGaA, as well as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among others.
Although the 4K restoration has yet to receive a dedicated home video release date, it seems that it might in the near future, thanks to the involvement of distributor Kino Lorber. Seeing as we are slowly encroaching on the prophetic film’s hundred year anniversary, it seems more likely than ever that we will be watching the new modernization in just a short while.