Released shortly after the end of the long and bloody First World War, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is hailed as a hallmark of German Expressionism. Written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer, and directed by Robert Wiene, it tells the story of a malevolent hypnotist (Werner Krauss) who uses a man who sleepwalks (Conrad Veidt) as a tool to commit grisly murders.
The 1920 film can be seen as an allegory for WWI, with the hypnotist symbolizing the authoritarian German government and the man standing in for German soldiers who were conditioned to kill the enemy to advance the cause of German Imperial glory. Of course, the same nationalistic dynamic existed in every other country that participated in the pointless war so the film, overall, serves as a general condemnation of war.
On Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. the RPL Theatre is holding a special screening of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari featuring a specially restored print that captures the formal qualities of German Expressionism tied to the use of light and shadow to convey emotional tension.