Sleep on it...
This 1991 rendition of the German expressionist feature film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari appears to be a satire on the mental state of metropolis workers in the 80’s and 90’s. Viewers familiar with the original material will recognize patterns of sleep deprivation, somnambulism and hypnotism. Like the 1920 original, this film is silent. It doesn’t even use title cards.
We are voyeurs observing a handful of characters whose sanity we are invited to question. The score is always tense, but the images aren’t exciting. Without pertinent audio support to facilitate suspense, The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez isn’t an easy movie and isn’t sexy. It is grey and cold. Whatever missteps the writers and director made seem deliberate; something more obvious in the second half.
This experimental job is likely to struggle finding a niche. It doesn’t have a conventional narrative, it is very artsy and, as an entertainment piece, it is hindered by the technical challenges it needs to overcome in order to convey the story wordlessly. It is a contemplative and thoughtful effort that sadly fails to impress until the third act. It is a unique experience but not a masterpiece.