Film Review: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2005)

Release Date: October 22nd, 2005
Directed by: David Lee Fisher
Written by: David Lee Fisher
Based on: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari the 1920 film written by Hans Janowitz, Carl Mayer
Music by: Eban Schletter
Cast: Judson Pearce Morgan, Daamen J. Krall, Doug Jones, Lauren Birkell

Highlander Films, Image Entertainment, 76 Minutes

Review:

I’ll admit it, initially, I was pretty stoked about this movie before it came out in 2005. I remember a friend directing me to the website where I watched the trailer and read about the development of the picture. I was then quick to buy a copy as soon as it was made available. I wanted this to be good.

Unfortunately, it falls short in a lot of ways.

First, the film is a technical achievement in how it was shot and presented. While it is filmed with a lot of green screen work, the actors are transported into the visual world of the original The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Most of the technical work goes off without a hitch but in some spots, sets may have worked better and its not like recreating the original sets would have been that costly, it may have been cheaper and easier than filming in green screen and trying to get the actors to match up with the original shots. Plus, I’m not sure that a shot for shot remake was necessarily the best idea either.

Also, the acting, for the most part, is pretty bad. I can dismiss it to a point, due to it being a recreation of the original body of work, as silent films employed a lot of physical action and overstated expressions but this film overstates its performances pretty profoundly. I’d hate to come off as a dick but it felt like a community theater troupe giving the film a Shakespearean panache.

The only real acting highlight was Doug Jones as Cesare. However, Jones is well-known for his physical performances, which is why he constantly plays weird sorts of characters and will forever be employed by Guillermo del Toro. Lauren Birkell was also fairly good, as she was the only major character that was subtle and mostly played her part to a t.

It is hard to remake a bonafide classic, however. I just feel like it would have been better had the filmmakers done their own interpretation of the film, as opposed to trying to seamlessly recreate it with the addition of sound. It put them into a box and it was a box that was already perfect the way it was.

I’m not against a Caligari remake, it just needs to have its own identity and breathe its own life into the story. Look at what the 1970s remake of Nosferatu with Klaus Kinski did; it was a stellar film in its own way and still a fantastic homage to the original silent classic.

I can’t deny the appreciation that the filmmakers had for the original, however. It is obvious that their intentions were noble and they tried their damnedest to recreate the Caligari world but the approach and execution were off.

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