Cabinet of Dr Caligari with Live Score by Minima (4 stars)

Cabinet of Dr Caligari with Live Score by Minima

Inventive musical accompaniment to the classic silent horror

Made in 1920 by director Robert Wiene, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is one of the touchstones of German expressionist cinema. Using angular set design, thick make-up and creative lighting techniques, it tells the tale of a murderous doctor and his sleepwalking golem. The film is highly regarded not only for its aesthetic merits, but for containing early examples of both flashbacks and a twist ending.

Add into this mix Minima, four young chaps who specialise in modern musical interpretations of classic silent films. For the most part, they take their cues from the images on screen – the title sequence is set to suitably ominous strings and thudding drums, while an off-kilter waltz is the natural choice of accompaniment for a fairground scene. Every so often, though, the musicians take a more prominent role in the proceedings, in one instance playing a funky bass line as two characters hurry through town. The anachronism is initially jarring, but blends in quickly; however, it does add a new element to the film, rendering Minima’s contribution more than just incidental.

The band make no claims to producing the definitive Caligari soundtrack, but thanks to the nature of the medium, their contribution can sit happily as an alternative to more traditional scores, rather than supplanting them.

Minima: Clips from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari

  • 1920
  • Germany
  • 1h 30min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Robert Wiene
  • Cast: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Lil Dagover.

A landmark of expressionist cinema, feasting the eyes with bizarre, angular visuals despite its technical crudity. The acting and directing are superb, and the story of a fairground hypnotist who uses a sleepwalker to carry out murders still retains a unique sense of horror.

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