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Robert Wiene Poster

Biography

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Overview (2)

Born in Breslau, Silesia, Germany [now Wroclaw, Dolnoslaskie, Poland]
Died in Paris, France  (cancer)

Mini Bio (1)

Robert Wiene was born on April 24, 1873 in Breslau, Silesia, Germany. He was a writer and director, known for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), The Hands of Orlac (1924) and L'autre (1930). He died on July 17, 1938 in Paris, France.

Trivia (30)

Brother of Conrad Wiene.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 1202-1206. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Former stage actor, writer and director, graduate of Vienna University, who first worked in films from 1913. Had a reputation as a director of melodramas, before his making his most famous picture, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), which is considered one of the best examples of German expressionism. His other noteworthy effort in the same vein was the horror film The Hands of Orlac (1924). Wiene escaped Nazi persecution by seeking exile in France, where he died in 1938.
Wiene died in Paris ten days before the end of production of a spy film, Ultimatum, after having suffered from cancer. The film was finished by Wiene's friend Robert Siodmak.
The film business fascinated him very early and Robert Wiene realised his first movie as a director in 1913 with "Die Waffen der Jugend" (13). He also wrote the screenplay for this movie what he did for many of his later directed movies as well.
Four months after the Nazis took power, Wiene's latest film, Taifun, was banned on May 3, 1933. A Hungarian film company had been inviting German directors to come to Budapest to make films in simultaneous German/Hungarian versions, and given his uncertain career prospects under the new German regime Wiene took up that offer in September to direct "One Night in Venice" (1934).
His younger brother Conrad also became an actor, but Robert Wiene at first studied law at the University of Berlin. In 1908 he also started to act, at first in small parts on stage.
In 1919 Wiene helped create, with Heinz Hanus in Vienna, a professional association of film directors, which he managed until 1922. That same year he began a production for Erich Pommers of Berlin's Decla Film on the project The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919). Acknowledged by contemporary critics as the epitome and starting point of the expressionist films, the picture, for which Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz supplied the film script and Hermann Warm, Walter Reimann and Walter Röhrig the set design, marked a turning point in Wiene's career. Werner Krauss played the role of the mad physician Dr. Caligari, who puts on fair-ground shows by day and uses his somnambulistic slave Cesare (played by Conrad Veidt) to commit murder for his master by night. The film was an extraordinary public success, both in Germany and abroad.
In many of his movies starred - in the second half of the 10s - the first female movie star in Germany - Henny Porten.
His most memorable feature films are the horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Raskolnikow (1923), an adaptation of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, both of which had a deep influence on the German cinema of that time.
Wiene's oeuvre, exhibits a surprising versatility and quality, featuring Raskolnikov, an expressionist adaptation of Dostoevsky's novel, INRI, a monumental Bible epic, Orlac's Hands, a psychological thriller, and Der Rosenkavalier, an ambitious opera film.
Wiene had adapted from a novel and directed the 1923 silent religious film I.N.R.I., depicting in a conventional way the events preceding the crucifixion of Christ.
His first involvement with film was in 1912, writing and (possibly) directing Die Waffen der Jugend.
After 1934 Wiene went to London, and finally to Paris where together with Jean Cocteau he tried to produce a sound remake of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
In 1924 Wiene moved to Austria in order to take over direction of the Wiener Pan-Film company, as well as to work with the author Ludwig Nerz who was under contract there.
Following the Nazi rise to power in Germany, Wiene, who was of Jewish descent,fled into exile.
Wiene also directed a variety of other films of varying styles and genres.
His father was a well-known stage actor and his brother Conrad Wiene also initiated a career on stage and became a movie director. Robert Wiene began his career at the theater too where he first took over the management of the Kleines Schauspielhaus in Vienna in 1908, one year later followed a second theater.
He is particularly known for directing the German silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and a succession of other expressionist films.
His burial was at the Bagneux Cemetery in Paris, in a temporary concession plot that was later recycled. There is no trace of his grave today.
Although one German obituary identified him as a Jew, he had identified himself as a Protestant in Viennese university and residence records from 1894 through 1925.
Robert Wiene was born in Breslau, as the elder son of the successful theatre actor Carl Wiene.
Wiene never returned to Germany, although the reason is unclear. He had no connection to left-wing politics, and had collaborated with Nazi favorite Richard Strauss on "Der Rosenkavalier" in 1925.
If his style was stagy and impersonal it was still beneficial to "Caligari", allowing the painted-on milieu and the performers most in tune with it (Werner Krauss in the title role and Veidt as Cesare the somnambulist) to speak for themselves. Veidt's subsequent admission that "I never got 'Caligari' out of my system" reflects on the freedom Wiene offered him as an actor.
Crime, madness, identity, and contrasts between Western and Eastern cultures were themes that occupied him throughout his career; he tackled all of them in "Fear" (1917) and "The Doll Maker of Kiang-Ning" (1923).
He was good at sustaining darker moods and capable of eliciting excellent performances.
He studied law at the University of Vienna (1894 to 1896) and was a practicing attorney in Weimar before moving to Vienna in 1908 to help found a theatre for contemporary drama. Five years later he made his screen debut in Berlin as director of the short "Arms of Youth".
Wiene was a busy commercial craftsman who suddenly found himself hailed as a genius thanks to "Caligari". He never lived up to that success, though he tried, and his surviving output is uneven at best.
After World War II historians re-evaluated him as a hack and attributed the brilliance of "Caligari" to everyone involved except the director - a dismissal as undeserved as the extravagant praise.
He was something of a maverick, maintaining his creative independence until Goebbels' film ministry took it away. If.

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