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New look for silent classic The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

A German Expressionist film made in 1920 has been restored to its original quality for the first time. BBC Culture reports on its Berlin premiere.

A new version of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari reveals the silent masterpiece as it looked in 1920. After the original negative was discovered, a two-year restoration project brought out colour and detail that had not been seen since the German Expressionist classic was first viewed.

The digitally restored version premiered at the Berlin Film Festival with a performance at the capital’s main concert hall. Avant-garde US composer John Zorn – who has written a new score for the film – provided an organ accompaniment.

“It’s one of the first Expressionistic films ever,” says Claudia Dillman, director of the German Film Institute. “For the first time, influences of the art are directly transferred into a film – the decor; the acting; the costumes; the painted walls.”

Dillman discusses what the new version means for cinemagoers today, while the film’s restorer Anke Wilkening describes the processes involved.

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