Wisbourg, Germany based estate agent Knock dispatches his associate, Hutter, to Count Orlok's castle in Transylvania as the Count wants to purchase a isolated house in Wisbourg. They plan on selling him the one across the way from Hutter's own home. Hutter leaves his innocent wife, Ellen, with some friends while he is away. Hutter's trek is an unusual one, with many locals not wanting to take him near the castle where strange events have been occurring. Once at the castle, Hutter does manage to sell the Count the house, but he also notices and feels unusual occurrences, primarily feeling like there is a dark shadow hanging over him, even in the daytime when the Count is unusually asleep. Hutter eventually sees the Count's sleeping chamber in a crypt, and based on a book he has recently read, believes the Count is really a vampire or Nosferatu. While Hutter is trapped in the castle, the Count, hiding in a shipment of coffins, makes his way to Wisbourg, causing death along his way, ... Written by
Quite possibly my own very favourite movie. No vampire film before or since has been either as disturbing or as artful. Less overtly "expressionistic" than some of the other German films of the day, but no less visually impressive. Look at the seascape where Ellen/Nina/Mina pines over her departed husband. Watch those marvelous shadows, which we see in Bremen more often than the vampire itself, used especially effectively in the closing sequence.
And look at Max Schreck himself! While Bram Stoker gave his Count affinity with wolves and bats, Murnau favours that rat, both in that they surround him and that he physically resembles a shaved, cadaverous rat. Spreading his pestilence, Max Schreck is truly the vilest, most loathsome villain in the history of film. The scene where he rises suddenly erect from his coffin aboard ship is one that horror directors everywhere should study very carefully.
Nosferatu is also noteworthy as the origin of the idea that vampires are killed by sunlight, previously present neither in literature nor folklore. In response to the poster who complained that the vampire seems to be walking around in light before his death, these scenes are set at night. In the original versions, there was a blue tint over these scenes to let you tell night from day; it's difficult to tell the difference without them.
My copy is marred with some hilarious inappropriate sound effects (such as a massive "BOING" when the gates of the castle open on their own accord) which I've learned not to hold against the film itself.
Thank God that Florence Stoker did not manage to completely wipe this film of the face of existence.
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