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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
I've just seen the world theatrical premier of the restoration done by the Munich Filmmuseum. It was presented, along with the premier of a restoration of Alraune (1928), by University of Chicago's Documentary Film Group. A similar review of Alraune can be found on IMDb. Filmmuseum Director Stefan Drößler provided a brief introduction and information about the restoration process. The überexcellent Aljoshe Zimmerman provided piano accompaniment to the film. The film itself was utterly magnificent. Drößler said that the film was approximately 1900 meters, I believe. In restoring, the Filmmuseum paid attention to getting the original intertitles just right as well as properly tinting the film as was likely intended by Murnau. What results is not merely a film, but an experience in art.
I showed this one to my daughters (ages 6 and 9) and they watched it six more times before it went back to the library- the 9 year old reading the captions to the younger one. Then they checked it out again a few weeks later. It says a lot when children that have been jaded by the high tech movies of the nineties can enjoy a silent film this much. Better not say say "Nosferatu" out loud around my house.
Max Schreck is the creepiest cinematic vampire by far. His wide eyes and snaggle-teeth evoke the rats he is associated with in the film. Even for those who don't like silent films or know anything about Murnau, you should see this movie for the vampire. My friends and I were doing the stiff-armed "vampire walk" for days afterwards. Unfortunately, as in Coppola's version, the Harker character comes off as exquisitely annoying. Don't let that deter you though.
this film in my opinion is the 2nd best horror film of all time. developed during the German expressionism movement (which was an arts movement that was less concerned with imitating reality and more concerned with using set design to reflect emotion and psychology) Nosferatu utilizes set design and a great score to the fullest. the sets themselves leave a grimy and sinister impression on the viewer. in particular count orlok's castle.. if that place doesn't give you the creeps i don't know what will. the castle is so dark, cold and old looking it gives off the vibe that nothing of human descent could possibly live there. don't even get me started on Max Schrek.. that guy is the world champion of scary looking men. i can honestly say he has the creepiest performance in a horror film that i've ever seen. this plus amazing direction, some other memorable performances from the cast, brilliant direction and the most in depth telling of Bram Stoker's classic tale of vampirism, makes this movie a true masterpiece of horror cinema. 10/10 (the only film to ever come close to the masterpiece that is.. Alfred Hitchcock's psycho)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, is a classic German Expressionist
horror film, directed by F. W. Murnau.It features Max Schreck as the
vampire Count Orlok together with Gustav von Wangenheim,Greta Schröder,
Alexander Granach,Ruth Landshoff and Wolfgang Heinz. It was an
unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, with names and other
details changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to the
novel as for instance, "vampire" became "Nosferatu" and "Count Dracula"
became "Count Orlok".
The film begins in the Carpathian mountains, where real estate agent Hutter has arrived to close a sale with the reclusive Herr Orlok. Despite the feverish warnings of the local peasants, Hutter insists upon completing his journey to Orlok's sinister castle. While enjoying his host's hospitality, Hutter accidentally cuts his finger-whereupon Orlok tips his hand by staring intently at the bloody digit, licking his lips. Hutter catches on that Orlok is no ordinary mortal when he witnesses the vampire nobleman loading himself into a coffin in preparation for his journey to Bremen. By the time the ship bearing Orlok arrives at its destination, the captain and crew have all been killed-and partially devoured. There follows a wave of mysterious deaths in Bremen, which the local authorities attribute to a plague of some sort. But Ellen, Hutter's wife, knows better. Armed with the knowledge that a vampire will perish upon exposure to the rays of the sun, Ellen offers herself to Orlok, deliberately keeping him "entertained" until sunrise. At the cost of her own life, Ellen ends Orlok's reign of terror once and for all.
One of the silent era's most influential masterpieces, Nosferatu's eerie, Gothic feel and a chilling performance from Max Shrek as the vampire set the template for the horror films that followed for many years to come.Murnau proved his directorial talent in this picture he's a master artisan demonstrating not only a knowledge of the subtler side of directing but in photography.It doesn't scare us anymore for present viewers but it haunts us. It shows not that vampires can jump out of shadows, but that evil can grow there, nourished on death.Finally,it is masterpiece of the German silent cinema and easily the most effective version of Dracula on record.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Never having read the novel, I don't know how closely this film follows
Bram Stoker's tale, but it certainly sticks fairly closely to the
narrative we've come to be familiar with from later movies.
Renfield is a real estate broker in Bremen in 1838 and he sends agent Jonathan Harker to Graf Orlok's castle in Transylvania to close a sale on a dilapidated apartment complex in Bremen. Graf Orlok is Nosferatu, or Dracula. He's played by an actor called Max Schreck, which in German is a joke.
Renfield is under his far-away spell, though Renfield's place in the plot is problematic, at least in this version. I mean, he's an agent of Nosferatu. So what? His thread is a dead end.
At any rate, Harker makes the trip to the Carpathian Alps where he is warned by the peasants at the inn to avoid the Count's castle at night. Ha ha, laughs Harker.
And actually Harker is pretty dumb. Nosferatu meets him at the castle entrance and, alright, this is a fantasy, but no normal human being would get within ten feet of Max Schreck. The creature is grotesque. He has no neck. His ears end in Darwinian points. His incisors look like hypodermic syringes. He wears these skinny trousers on his long legs so that he seems to be walking on stilts. And his fingernails are those of a Chinese mandarin. Not to mention that nose, which alone signals an organism desperately in need of attention from St. Michael the Archangel.
I don't want to go through the entire plot. It differs from the classic Bela Lugosi version in a few ways. There is no business with mirrors, garlic, crucifixes, Mogen Davids, bats, St. Christopher medals, silver bullets, or stakes through the heart. Renfield's part is, as I say, largely irrelevant, and the Count's second victim, the pure Lucy, hardly appears. Neither does Professor Van Helsing.
This isn't the spookiest version of the tale, although it gets all sorts of kudos for originality. The most frightening version is probably the one with Frank Langella as the count. (I get the titles all mixed up.) It's the most nearly believable because we can imagine the smooth, handsome Langella bringing women under his spell. Francis Ford Coppola's rendition is hardly more than an exercise in style. The classic, with Bela Lugosi, has the advantage over "Nosferatu" of being a talkie. It's replete with lines that are unintentionally hilarious. "Da spider spinnink his vep faw da unvary fly." And, "I never drink -- wine." There have been numerous parodies too -- "Love At First Bite."
It was directed by F. W. Murnau and released in 1922, but it wasn't what I expected. Murnau was said to be fond of moving the camera around, sliding it sideways, lifting it. As someone once said of Murnau's directorial style, "They took away his crane and then/ I thought he'd never smile again." But this is shot from eye level. Howard Hawks could have done it. There's little stylization in the sets either, not a touch of expressionism. This is light years from "The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari." Yet it's enjoyable enough. It's bad when Nosferatu is sucking the blood of the poor folks in Transylvania and it's even worse after he moves to Bremen and people start dying all over the place. We always want to see Nosferatu finally get it in the neck himself, if he had one. And actually he gets smoked in the end. Harker's wife follows the directions for exterminating vampires and allows Nosferatu to suck her blood until he's trapped by the rising sun, at which point he disappears in a puff of smoke like the devil in Faust.
Vampires seem to have never died -- at least not in cinematic history. There currently appears to be a fascination with them. Several recent movies have shown them as in conflict over their conditions, reluctant to breed with humans, but still ultimately evil. I've tried to figure this out. They're obviously symbols for some other marginalized group, but which group? Gays? The mentally disordered? Pedophiles? Cigarette smokers? Clearly something that Hollywood isn't ready to handle without spells and mirrors and legerdemain.
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