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Nosferatu should absolutely be respected for it's contribution to, and advancement of, the film industry and particularly horror movies. The film offers special effects that were cutting edge at the time and still maintain some of their power in creating terror and tension. The particular version I viewed wasn't good, so beware. My DVD rental was through Netflix and severely detracted from the film. There were no color filters added to this cut, which meant that I had to watch Nosferatu parade around in the daylight. Why did they film night scenes during the day anyway? Make sure you get a release that has the color filters added. The soundtrack varies from release to release as well. My version had a beautifully orchestrated symphonic masterpiece, that was at odds with what was being shown more often than not. All film students and true horror fans should see this film at least once to appreciate it's cinematic contributions, just beware of questionable release cutting.
A few years ago when Fox issued Murnua's "Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans" on DVD as a promotion for their "Studio Classic" series, I was thrilled to see and hear the results of their efforts -- the film had never looked better. As for Murnau's earlier masterpiece, "Nosferatu", it has certainly been released in any number of DVD versions -- some of them quite nice. As this films was originally found to be in copyright violation (the filmmakers not having bothered to get the book rights from Braum Stoker's wife) and the court order to destroy the original and all copies, one was grateful that the film somehow had survived and was available in decent form to see at all. Now comes Kino's Ultimate Edition with a high definition transfer made from the finest surviving archival material from around the world. Who would have ever guessed that this film could be seen in such a breathtaking form! I've viewed the film many, many times -- but seeing this Ultimate Edition I felt like I was seeing it the way it would have been seen back in 1922. The inclusion of Hans Erdmann's original score, newly recorded, is a big plus also. If this is a film that you care about then don't hesitate to upgrade to this 2007 release -- it truly is breathtaking!
F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunes is arguably one of
the most horrific adaptations of Bram Stoker's Dracula ever produced
for film. In order to better understand the reasons for my 8 out of 10
ranking, I will first explain how it's characteristics of expressionism
make it fit in with other films released in Germany during the 1920s.
Then, I will explain the most obvious and key difference between this
film and other Dracula films. Finally, I will briefly describe how
Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunes has withstood the test of time,
on the screen and in the courtroom.
The period between about 1919 and the rise of the German Nazi movement in 1933 was a time of what is now known as The German Golden Age of film-making. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunes is one of the landmark films made in Germany during this golden age. Of course, the beginning of the German Golden Age was when the horrifying masterpiece Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari was released in 1919. This was one of the first attempts at what is now called expressionism in film-making. Expressionism is defined as aesthetics in which ideas and feelings are shown through exaggerated elements in the image such as lighting, decor, and content. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari took expressionism to the extreme with the use of carefully constructed indoor sets that made everything on screen seem distorted and anti-real. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunes, released 3 years later, brought to its audience very exaggerated shots (extremely tall beds, misshapen windows, grotesque makeup, exaggerated shadows, etc.). But one of the main differences between Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunes and Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is the amount of screen time that shows nature. Many of the expressionist shots in Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunes where outside, depicting some of the abnormalities in nature. This is an important element when discussing this film because it puts a rather disturbing twist on the natural world that contributes to a pessimistic air throughout the movie. For instance, when the hyena is shown, its simply unattractive appearance and disproportionate body adds to the film a sense that something is not quite right with the current situation. In most films it is a relief to see shots of trees or of the horizon, but Murnau proves with Nosferatu that this does not have to be necessarily true. Many of the most disquieting shots where actually shot outside for instance, the long shot of the castle, and the scarecrow shot. The expressionism in Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunes is obviously there, which puts this film rightfully so in the realm of the German Golden Age, which is characterized by a strong emphasis on expressionism.
Next, it is important to realize that one of the foremost reasons that this film has become such a memorable film is because it does not show Dracula as he is usually depicted. This unauthorized version of the 1897 novel does not portray the count as a handsome, deceiving man. Instead, the antagonist (Count Orlok as he is called instead of Dracula because it is an unofficial adaptation of the novel) is as ugly and unattractive as a count can be. With his rat-like appearance, Max Schreck certainly gives the movie a dark feel. Just the appearance of this Orlok on the screen is enough to scare viewers, even if he is not actually doing something horrific while on screen. Schreck is simply horrifying to watch. If someone is on screen for no more than 10 minutes total and can have an entire movie made around their character, they must me one sick looking puppy.
As stated above, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunes is an UNOFFICIAL adaptation of Bram Stoker's original Dracula novel. I think that because of this, Count Orlok has been created into this sort of rebellious icon that seems to constantly lurk (much as he does on the actual film) behind all of the other, "pretty-boy" vampires. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunes has become a sort of cult classic not only because of its extreme appearance of the count himself, but also because of the persecution it has endured over the past century. The Prana-Film Company declared bankruptcy after Bram Stoker's estate acted for his widow, Florence Stoker, and sued for copyright infringement. The Stoker estate won the case and the court ordered all existing prints of Nosferatu destroyed. Luckily, copies of the film had already been distributed around the world. These prints were then copied over the years, helping Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunes gain its current reputation as one of the greatest movie adaptations of the vampire legend. When most people think of silent horror films, their minds immediately recall that horrifying image of Count Orlok towering in the doorway of a dimly lit room or rising from his casket staring forebodingly into the camera.
Through the use of deliberate expressionism, alterations of a classic story, and a nasty battle in lawsuits, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunes proves that it is a must-see film for any true movie fan.
I'd never really watched black ans white horror movies before. But this
was on in the day time. So i sat and watched it apart from being highly
entertained nosferatu did scare the living daylights out of me.
The whole film years later is a landmark horror movie despite the court drama that went with the copright of Dracula and bram stokers wife. Although the 20's was when the film was still in infancy. This was a benchmark in horror. His face is known through out the world and scares little kids despite how old it is.
This is a classic example of how some movies can still be good or even brilliant no matter how old they may be. Nosferatu will give anyone nighmares.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nosferatu is a timeless production. For some it is shocking, frightening and bloodcurdling for others boring and faint. It's rightly said that it requires specific and understanding approach, especially for the modern audience. Whoever has become convinced to watch it has to be aware that back in 1920's film makers' technological abilities where pretty limited. Expecting Nosferatu to come up to modern criteria is simply sacrilege. The requirements of the modern audience are much different than these 80 years ago. It is noticeable that recently people are more scared of seeing blood and guts all over the place rather than a psychological image of the night's child slowly creeping to get his victim. The editing very nicely works to increase the effectiveness of Nosferatu's image. In general the acting is quite typical for the silent movie era. Because there is no dialog, actors exaggerate their gesticulation and commonly use obvious face expressions that could show their emotions to the viewer. At this point I would like to mention the character of Thomas Hutter. From the very beginning of the movie it's clearly shown how narcissistic and overconfident he is. However as the action goes by we can see how his character undergoes the changes caused by demonic Count Orlok. Max Schreck's acting is different. It's very specific what makes it an outstanding performance. He doesn't gesticulate; he moves slowly, his posture is hunched and his face expression practically does not change throughout the movie what makes it look like a mask. All these factors make up one of the greatest performances I have ever seen. Story telling is surprisingly good especially for a silent movie. However if anyone wants to have a full comprehension about it needs to re-watch the movie. As I mentioned before the editing has been done pretty nicely. All the shots of Nosferatu are very effective. The perfect usage of lighting and shadows as well as his make-up gives the tension, terror and a little bit of the shivers. He was so good that after the movie's release there was a rumor about him being a real vampire. This fact was by the way the main reason I wanted to see this movie although I didn't expect myself to have such a reflection. That is why I am not disappointed. It's important to understand the difference between people's perception now and 80 years ago. I doubt If anyone who was making Nosferatu back in 1920's would have thought how it will be seen in 21st century.
So much has been said and written about Murnau's classic that I had to
watch the film a second time to escape all the expectations,
preconceived ideas, and the natural human tendency to compare endlessly
(especially when critics build a film up with the title "greatest
_____"). That and Nosferatu was my first exposure to silent films, and
that's jumping into a whole different world of cinema unprepared to
fully appreciate the abstract and dreamlike quality of any silent film.
Upon the second viewing, I could accept Nosferatu on its own terms.
But even from that first viewing, late at night watching Turner Classic Movies, the Symphony of Horror succeeded in burning several images into my memory so that upon my numerous revisits to the film I felt a sense of anxiety as those scenes approached. Most notably: the scenes involving Nosferatu, himself.
The first glimpse of a stalking Orlock, standing motionless against the darkness - his white face clearly visible, talon-like fingers and claws extended, and as Hutter takes cover within his chambers we watch the vampire emerge from the darkness and enter through the pointed-arc doorway that opens by Nosferatu's will.
And my personal favorite: later upon the plague-strickened ship, the first mate goes down below deck to deal with the mysterious cargo and Orlok rises out of his coffin in such a way that defies physics, stiffly and without using a muscle, he swings up like a hinged hatch. The first mate runs for his life, and takes his chances with the sea leaving the poor captain to fall prey to the stalking vampire.
Even in the calmer moments, I watched Max Schreck performance in silent awe at how, metaphorically speaking, Nosferatu has a clear voice of his own despite the literal absence of sound how the movements and makeup define the character so vividly. Going over the deeds and legal documents, Nosferatu stares wide-eyed at all the papers placed before him. Hutter drops a pendant with a photograph of his wife, and the vampire picks it up, studying it with even more intensity. Then glancing up to Hutter, a curiously reserved look with conspiring, suspicious, and sinister overtones lingers on his face. Suppressing his excitement as though he's waited centuries for this plan to unfold, as though he's waited centuries to find Ellen, but he doesn't wish any soul to know. It gives more power to the remark, "Your wife has a beautiful neck" and a twinge of dread as he ominously adds, "I accept the beautiful abandoned house across from yours." My second viewing opened the door for consciously observing even more imagery within the film, including the negative shot of the coach as it rides up to the castle and the low shot of the stalking vampire with the ship's riggings and ropes backdropping him.
I loved the haunting and beautiful interaction between Ellen and Nosferatu as the vampire (half a continent away), closes in on Hutter. She awakens from a dream and cries out with her arms reaching out, and Murnau cuts to Orlok turning as though he'd heard her voice across that great distance. Murnau cuts back to Ellen, their eyelines matching up, and the Vampire calls off his attack as though something had transpired between himself and Hutter's wife. Through frame composition and editing, Murnau created this sensation of a supernatural communication.
On the second viewing, I also really noticed Ellen's eyes and the lingering sadness she carries throughout the entire film (although the film never explicitly explores it). Those are the eyes of a woman carrying suppressed emotions (conscious or not) that burdens her soul, and yet she either refuses (or society forbids) such explicit expression. Watch her curious reactions to Hutter delivering flowers, to the letter she receives from Hutter, and to her lover's return she seems strangely distant with a reluctance to show intimacy.
But watch also the expression on her face as her outburst interferes with Nosferatu's attack on Hutter, and as she reads of the book of vampire lore, and notice how those repressed emotions come closer to the surface as though somewhere on the lower levels of her subconsciously she's always known her role and ultimate fate in this story.
Anyway, I'm not here to add to the long list of people who throw around the "greatest silent horror film" phrase. For one, I don't have enough exposure to silent films to make that assessment, and for two I think it ultimately cultivates the wrong approach. People shouldn't sit down with Nosferatu expecting the ultimate horror film that will scare them senselessly. That's not the film they'll find.
Nosferatu is far too old, far too primitive, and has been blatantly ripped off far too many times to still scare the modern audience. A bad horror movie that does not make, however. Despite its age, Nosferatu sports some fascinating and memorable visuals (that remain strangely original even today), and an even more fascinating history.
But, let's be honest and fair, will any horror film you've seen recently still be considered scary in 80 years? The fact Nosferatu's images still possess the power they do is a testament to its craftsmanship. And that is the reason to see Nosferatu.
Nosferatu would probably be almost entirely forgotten today if it weren't
for the memorable images of the rat-like Count Orlok. Max Schreck's
performance, and the way director H W Murnau uses it, create a screen
monster whose appearance is uniquely disgusting, but who at the same time
seems perfectly natural. Like the young, eager estate agent, Thomas Hutter
(Gustav von Wangenheim) who journeys from Germany to sell him a property,
accept him on his own terms, while knowing in our minds that he is to be
feared. Orlak's naturalness is all the more remarkable by contrast with the
other characters who we never forget are acting, because of silent cinema's
exaggerated facial expressions and movements.
Somebody has commented on IMDb that the film is a portrait of a failed marriage between vain, greedy, uncaring Thomas, and self-abegnating Ellen (Greta Schröder) who has nothing to lose in sacrificing herself to destroy Orlok. Certainly, the couple are ill-suited, but I see Thomas as uncertain, trying to prove himself to an aloof, brooding Ellen. Is she perhaps the ultimate femme fatale, a destroyer who will rise again in Orlok's place to continue spreading plague? The rats, soil and coffins bring to mind the horrors of the WWI trenches. In 1921, just about when the film was made, Hitler - fascinating to women both personally and nationally - became leader of the Nazi party, and the plague of war would soon return.
The film is usually regarded as being expressionist, and the most vivid images, such as the shadows of Orlok's hands, fall into that category. But much of the outside photography of Hutter travelling through the mountains, of Orlok's castle, and of Ellen by the sea, are nearer to 18th century German romanticism. The Eureka DVD on which I base these comments contains interesting commentaries on the movie's locations (most of which still exist) and its artistic context. This Australian-produced 2-disc DVD, with sepia and b&w versions of the film, has very expressive background music by Art Zoyd; though I preferred to watch in silence.
I expected much from this film ('The bringer of the plague'), as it is
supposed to be an early (the first?) Dracula movie and because it is mostly
named in one breath after 'Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari' (1920, Robert
Wiene). I was not disappointed by the created atmosphere in this film and
by the (not yet very convincing, but) scary special FX like stop-frame
animation and the like. The story is also ingenious and entertaining. I'm
glad I saw this first and 'Shadow of the Vampire' (2000, Merhige) not long
after it, in a theater. You'll probably want to see this one twice also and
then 'Shadow of the vampire' right after as it is complementary (not
opposite) to this one and definitely worth it. Nosferatu is a world of its
own and has little to do with other Dracula films. To me Nosferatu is the
first and last great Dracula film.
If 'M' (1931, Fritz Lang) interests you visually, go see this one and 'Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse' (1933, Fritz Lang) as they are both shot by cinematographer Fritz Arno Wagner. He must be at least very intrigued by expressionism, if not, BE one of the pioneering expressionists in cinema. See for yourself.
10 points out of 10 :-)
Max Schreck is simply awesome as the count. He's much more terrifying than Bela Lugosi, or just about anyone you could think of. I mean, just look at him, with his large ears, and bald head, he'll most likely be the best vampire in film history. Note- if you plan on seeing this, try to find the restored version. It's vastly superior to some prints that have been floating around.
Nosferatu. In my opinion, the first truly scary movie. Max Shreck is
teriffic as Dracula. F.W. Murnau brings the image of him to life
excellently. Anyone who likes horror should see this landmark movie. Work's
great on a double bill with Karl Dreyer's Vampyr.
PLOT: 10 ACTING: 10 DIRECTION: 10 CINEMATOGRAPHY: 9
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