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You can't look at a movie as interesting, original, and yet technically dated as "Nosferatu" the same way you would a new movie, or a Hollywood classic. Murnau's truly great horror film comes a full decade before the famous "Dracula" that copied so much from, and it has to be seen on its own terms, in the thick of the German silent era. Even as a silent film it is five years from the stylish peak of the genre, and so there is a creakiness to some of the techniques (the edits, the iris effects, and so on) that come with the territory.
But it's never slow, and in many ways is much more together and sophisticated than Tod Browning's 1931 version, which of course has at least the addition of sound and of Bela Lugosi, the new star, to make it legendary. Here there are a lot of details in scenes not bothered with in later versions, as in the journey on the ship to England, which is one of the most beautiful parts of the movie, or scenes of the countryside which set a place more than a mood.
Of course, the two movies are more similar than different, with the basic vampire legend intact--sucking the blood from the necks of beautiful young women, for starters, and needing to avoid sunlight. The expressionist light is wonderful even if it's just showing a swarm of rats. The camera-work is gorgeous, even when static, and when it moves (as on the ship) it's elegant and modern. There is an overuse of the iris vignetting effect for our tastes, no doubt, giving the scenes a constraining feeling rather than a limitlessness that even Browning manages to achieve, and of course Coppola and Herzog do much differently in their recent versions. In fact, see all four. There are others, but these are the famous ones, not including the miserable but campy Warhol vampire film, and the rather different Dreyer 1932 version called "Vampyr," and then some offshoots that are sometimes terrific, but which are not really based on the same story line at all.
It's odd to talk about a vampire movie and not mention the main actor, the vampire player, in this case Max Schreck, but in fact he has no meaning for American audiences. The director, F.W. Murnau, is another story, with a stellar brief career including the Hollywood masterpiece, "Sunrise," which won the first best picture Oscar ever. For that reason alone I'd give this fun, slightly spooky vampire flick a good late night look.
This is one of the truly great horror movies.It is the story of Dracula
although he isn't called Dracula because of legal reasons involving
Bram Stoker's estate.Maybe it is just as well because this 1922 classic
isn't like any Dracula you've ever seen.
Even by the time of Bela Lugosi's classic ,Dracula was portrayed as a suave debonair count.But in this great film the Count is a scary little thing.Rat-faced with sharp rat teeth and long nails and the look of disease all about him.Max Schreck is simply amazing in his role as the Count.His portrayal of the ugly little monster is one of the greatest roles ever captured on film.
Speaking of captured on film,this film is almost a hundred years old ,and it looks it.There are evenly lit places and scratchy looking segments and the film speed is a little off in places but that all just adds to the great atmosphere that this masterpiece has.Several scenes from this film have become iconic,none more so then the Count rising straight up from the bottom of the ship.The scene where the Count carries his coffin through the town is as freaky and eerie as anything I've seen.The way Max Schreck walks will even scare you.
There was a rather expensive restored version of this film done back in the 1990's.Most cheaper copies will come with a crappy added on sound track,death metal or something like that,I always turn that off along with all the lights and let this little creepy silent film flicker away in the still of the night.
Watch this one if you haven't.It will stay with you.
Having recently seen this as part of a university module on film from
Germany's Weimar era, I can safely say that "Nosferatu" is one of the
best films ever made, especially from an atmospheric and
cinematographic point of view. The film is suggested by Bram Stoker's
"Dracula" - I say "suggested by" as opposed to "based on", as whilst
the premise is the same, the names of the characters and the story's
general tone are changed to something more Germanic. Perhaps even more
so than the influence from Stoker, "Nosferatu" is equally influenced in
a number of aspects by German Romantics ranging from Caspar David
Friedrich to E.T.A. Hoffmann and the Brothers Grimm. Thus, the vampire
seems more of a folkloric figure from within one of the darker moments
in a fairy-tale from Grimm than Stoker's did, and the relocation of the
time period and setting is to Germany during the Romantic era (no
The film succeeds because it incorporates aspects of fantasy-horror and Expressionism, yet at the same time uses realistic settings (often "on location") extensively; in comparison with the likes of "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari", which were stylistic affairs confined to a studio. This creates a subtle spooky mood, which inhabits the viewer for a good while after the film is over, rather than provide quick short thrills that die as soon as the credits roll like with a number of horror films. This makes for an excellent film, which ought to be watched.
This is by far the best telling of the vampire story. It's the creepiest and scariest of the lot. Even Bela Lugosi's interpretation as good as it is can't compare to what Max Schreck brings to his interpretation of the Dracula figure Count Orlac. Murau's tight and focused direction is without peer. Some trivia: In German "Schreck" mean fear, terror. The "edition" I saw was issued in 1991 by Film Preservation Associates and has the title "Noseferatu - Symphony of Horror", with the credit: Freely composed by Henrik Galeen. The Dolby digital score composed and performed by Silent Orchestra is highly effective and well conceived.
There's no doubt that this is a technically brilliant movie -
groundbreaking considering that it was made in 1922. It's well filmed
and features generally pretty good performances from its cast all
around, within the parameters you would expect for the style of acting
used in silent films of the era. It also gives us the German actor Max
Schreck as Count Orlok - who may be the creepiest, most monstrous and
most frightening take on the Dracula character ever - far more than
Bela Lugosi (who basically defines the role) could ever hope for. It's
even funny in places - I think of the scene where Orlock looks at a
picture of Hutter's wife and says "your wife has a beautiful neck." It
is, of course, a variation on the Dracula story, with the names changed
and some significant parts of the story changed to get around the fact
that director F.W. Murnau didn't have the rights to the story. But
those changes don't detract from the basic story. In fact, they may
enhance it by giving this a fresher sense. You don't know exactly
what's going to happen because there are some differences. It has a lot
going for it no doubt.
But something's not right. Maybe - as good as Schreck was (and even perhaps superior to Lugosi) - Lugosi's take on the character has so entranced all subsequent adaptations of the story that this just doesn't seem like the story. I found it very difficult to enter into this. It's not a problem with silent movies. I've enjoyed a number of silent movies over the years. But as well made as this was, this just didn't draw me in. I had to sit with it a number of times before I could sit through the whole thing - and at 1:20 it's not very long. And yet, to be honest, there's not any particular problem I can put my finger on. For all the good things involved with this production, something just wasn't working for me. It's unsatisfying to me that I can't explain what the problem was. It's just that there was a problem somewhere. Still, a movie as well made as this that was made when it was can't get anything less than 6/10.
'Nosferatu' came out on a very disturbed time for the world history.
Germany had lost the war only three years earlier, and because of this
fact that the 'German Impressionism' cinema movement began. In this
movement, lots of important movies came out that redefined genres,
created genres, and influences film-making up to today. 'Nosferatu' is
one of the most famous pictures of this time, along with 1919's 'The
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari', 1927's 'Metropolis' and 1931's 'M'.
This movie is loosely based on Bram Stroker's Dracula, and it's the first adaption of the famous novel. But I really don't like the way the story was presented here. It isn't told well, and looks a bit confusing. The titles are too vague, and they don't really explain what's going on. This is one of these movies in which you don't really care what's going to happen. The plot is about a house salesman that is sent to Transylvania in order to sell a house to Count Orlok. The Count buys the house, but only because he is interested in the Count's wife. After this point, the story turns into something weird, and nothing like 'Dracula'. That's why I think it's unfair to compare this with 'Dracula' (although I do prefer the 1931's version of 'Dracula', but as I said...).
The acting is really the main reason this movie is so famous. The supporting cast is all excellent, but it's the main part that steals all your attention. Max Schreck is absolute perfect as Count Orlok. He provides a haunting, yet serious and scary interpretation. There's even one movie in which the matter of him been a true vampire is discussed (2000's 'Shadow of the Vampire').
The other aspects aren't really worth mentioning. F. W. Murrau's directing is okay for 1922, so is the rest. The titles are well made, but confusing. One thing that really bothered me was the blue and yellow tints to represent night and day, but this is not a problem only with this movie. Lots of 1920's silent movies utilize this resource.
Overral, this is a mice movie, with an excellent acting, but a confusing and bad-told story. From its period, I prefer much more the also German 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari'.
F.W. Murnau indeed has a significant place in movie history. He was the
director who invented camera movement in his wonderful 1924 production
THE LAST LAUGH. He is also known for having directed one of the most
beautiful silent romances, THE SUNRISE (1927). Besides, it is maestro
F.W. Murnau who adapted Goethe's marvelous FAUST to screen in 1926.
Finally, it is him who, not having any serious reference to how a
horror film was being made, proved unbelievable brilliant uniqueness of
thrill through the still classic horror, constantly a prospect film for
all scary movies, NOSFERATU. We have a number of horrors nowadays...
yet, NOSFERATU is still enjoyed by viewers galore... is that not an
Of course, the period of time which has passed since the premiere of the film is huge and, as a result, there may be some people who will dislike the movie after all these years: no camera movement, silent performances which tend to constitute "overacting" with "overgesticulation" (from today's perspective), undeveloped cinematography. Nevertheless, I think that because of the movie's old age, it has a stronger sense of suspicion and mystery nowadays than it used to have decades ago. I still absolutely admire this film for its constant power to thrill and shock while the awareness that the movie is more than 80 years old additionally thrills me. Modern horrors are, generally, so unoriginal and similar in their conventions that there is still no movie that could be compared to Murnau's 1922 masterpiece. How come that a movie made in the early 1920s with limited filming techniques can thrill the 21 century viewers? This leads me to one conclusion: Murnau's film really served its purpose to the very core.
The number of scary moments are something the film can still boast. Who can forget Hutter's visit to Graf Orlok's castle? Who can skip the facial expression of the vampire from the coffin? Who can possibly omit the terrific atmosphere when Nosferatu is on ship? And the moments with mosquitoes... I personally loved many of these scenes, but particularly two sequences have remained in my memory for good: the one at the castle filmed at marvelous Orava in Slovakia and the final one when Nosferatu's shadow is seen walking upstairs.
The performances are exceptionally good, yet on the condition that they are interpreted from the silent era's point of view. This is the only factor that may disappoint some today's viewers. Yet, the facial expressions and gesticulations (these are the major factors that one may take into account when applied to silents) still do the job. Max Schreck is still horrifying as Count Orlok. Consider his face, for instance, at the scene when he says about the throat of Hutter's wife. Greta Schroeder is also memorable as Ellen, particularly at the moments of her trances. Alexander Granach in his portrayal of Knock also provides a viewer with a thrill of fear.
NOSFERATU is a very well made horror movie, a silent I would recommend to everyone who likes scary movies. I also consider the movie a must see for all movie fans. Highly recommended movie with unforgettable atmosphere that has become even more intense due to the fact the movie was made such a long time ago. I love it and although I have seen it a considerable number of times, I am going to see it once again.
Life's Pictures Will Turn to Shadows
Vampires are one of the most popular horror myths out there that age centuries ago. We have no shortage of films for them. There are probably dozens or hundreds of Dracula/vampire movies ranging from the suave Dracula played by Bela Lugosi to the Vlad the Impaler type Dracula in Coppola's 1992 movie 'Bram Stoker's Dracula.' However, one image, one vampire movie has stood the test of time and appreciation better then any vampire movie ever made. Nosferatu, the first vampire, literally. F.W. Murnau wanted to make a great vampire movie. But he did it differently then most people would later do. He didn't make a sexy exotic man with a heavy accent, more so since the film is silent. But Murnau wished to create a vampire, which would disgust us look-wise. One vampire who is ugly, looks like a corpse, ugly rat faced monstrosity. He created Count Orlock, known as Nosferatu.
Of course the story is based from Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' and was almost forever destroyed by Stoker's widow for copyright reasons. But this still wins as the greatest vampire ever. The story merely is changed by names. A man named Thomas Hutter (Gustav v. Wangenheim) is a real estate agent who is hired by an odd man named Knock to sell property to Count Orlock, who lives in an ancestral castle in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania. He is warned all the way by townspeople that he is heading toward the land of the phantoms. In one scene we see him mention Orlock's name in a motel and everyone falls silent. Horses scare away, and a Hyena snarls outside. Murnau uses these images to show something is definitely wrong.
Hutter's carriage refuses to carry him further into the land near the castle, so Hutter is forced by foot, but soon after Orlock sends a carriage driven by a phantom. The carriage moves in fast motion showing that something is dark about it. In one shot of the journey in the Phantom chariot, Murnau uses a reverse negative showing trees appearing white with dark leaves and the black chariot. A very eerie look of the scene. Hutter meets the Count, and at dinner Hutter cuts himself, where as Orlock is fascinated by the sight of his blood, 'Your precious blood!' he exclaims. Hutter feels sort of uneasy, especially with his occasional reading of 'Book of Vampires.' After dealing real estate with Orlock he sees of locket of Hutter's wife. 'Is this your wife? What a lovely throat!' he says. That night, Hutter catches Orlock in his Nosferatu form, and is attacked, but after Ellen, his wife back in England feels danger, she calls out to him, and Nosferatu stops his attack.
Now that the farce is totally up for everyone (even if it was predictable) I will refer to him as Nosferatu now. He leaves his castle to move into the home he bought across from Hutter's house. They both leave, Nosferatu by ocean raft and boat. A plague falls upon the ship, and I don't need to explain what happens with the rest of the crew. In one part of the ship scene, we see a coffin slam open as Nosferatu rise up like a clock hand from laying to standing position, an effect good for that day and age. Now begins the trial of death and plague. Unexplained deaths come with his arrival. Ellen and Hutter fear, especially after Ellen reads The Book of Vampires. Ellen decides to sacrifice herself for the town. After she sees Nosferatu staring at their home through the window across the street, she asks Hutter to get the professor, so he cannot stop what she inevitability will do. Nosferatu sneaks into her horse, and corners her, using mystique powers to render her helpless before sucking her blood.
What Ellen read was that a woman pure of heart must keep a vampire up till the break of dawn to kill him. This happens, in one of the most memorable scenes ever in horror. As the cock crows, we see a close-up of Nosferatu as he lifts his head from her neck eyes glaring at the camera, looks toward the window, tries to walks away but is destroyed by the sun using a clever effect for it's time period of film-making. Hutter finds his wife; she is alive for a moment, but dies. She used herself for the greater good. She saved many more lives.
Max Schreck plays Count Orlock, who has the best acting in the movie, with his sinister expressions, and slow, stalking movement that scares us into a feeling of never escaping terror. In today's aspects, this film is not scary, but it is creepy in the sense of the looks of Schreck with his pale face, long nails, bat ears, and two rat-like fangs. Nosferatu's blood-sucking carnage of a woman in the film gave it a slight sexual tone to some audiences. In one shot toward the end we see only the shadow of Nosferatu go up the stairs making it more eerie, especially seeing those long nails in shadow grow longer as his hand goes for the door. Max Schreck is also never seen blinking on screen which is odd to me but I wouldn't know why. However this movie is not perfect, in fact the acting by Gustav v. Wangenheim is horrid. Not good at all. He is a walking cliché with his over dramatic gasps and his 'Good morning sun' type attitude pre-Nosfertu attack.
Murnau directed this brilliantly. His use of editing is great, especially when Nosferatu attacks Hutter with cuts to Ellen's waking. Use of symbolism, fast forwards, and reverse negatives give this film the quality it has. This movie is the best vampire movie ever. A classic, it has withstood the test of time, and is a travel into the evil of life. No sound is needed to creep out a viewer although a classical score helps the mood. Even though a rip-off of Stoker's novel, in the end it inspired most of the Dracula films to come out. A very dated but must see film. Two thumbs up, hell I'll throw both my arms up.
Rating: 9/10 Label: Cinematic Masterpiece Favorites Rank: #21
Subtitled "A Symphony of Horror", "Nosferatu" is the first, and on of the
best, of many movies inspired by Bram Stoker's "Dracula". Directed by one
of the cinema's true poets, who helped create the language of the horror
movie, it is a dreamlike film where much is left unexplained. The geography
is deliberately vague, and several characters, such as the Van Helsing
figure, Professor Bulwer, have little connection with the main action. From
the start there is a sense of unease and menace, but everything is done by
suggestion without any explicit violence. Blood is constantly mentioned but
never seen. Plague overtakes a city but we are left to imagine the state of
its victims. When the townspeople chase Knock over the countryside they
appear to be tearing him apart, but the object of their frenzy turns out to
be a scarecrow.
The film's climax has a gentle sensuality. Instead of a phallic stake being driven through the vampire's heart, a self-sacrificing heroine holds him in her bed to ensure his death. Sex and death, blood and contamination, are the film's themes. Max Shreck's Orlok is a truly grotesque iconic figure, both frightening and moving, with his bat ears, his aquiline nose, hunched shoulders, hairless dome, flaring eyebrows, black-ringed eyes, white skin, and clawlike hands.
Most films on IMDb can, to an extent, be rated on a scale of 1-10. This
does not truly do the films justice, but gives a vague general
impression to the reader. However, films like 'Nosferatu',
'Metropolis', 'The Battleship Potemkin' and 'Man With a Movie Camera'
cannot possibly be rated in this way, their position in film is too
important and their influence is invaluable.
'Nosferatu' contains a whole host of iconic images. The shadow, Orlock's white face, the moment where he rises from his coffin, the sequence where he is seemingly trapped by the bars of his windows and of course his final scene. Max Schreck's on screen presence is one of the most iconic of film history and the influence his role has had over contemporary horror is vital. Think of the majority of slasher films produced since 'Halloween' in 1978, all the characters creep silently and the subtlety of the role is what makes the films effective.
Bieng a German Expression film the cinematography in 'Nosferatu' evokes emotion and meaning perfectly. We sympathise with Orlock as he stands, hands clasping the window frame of the run down mansion in which he lives, the connotations are very clear and perfectly executed. The degree of moral ambiguity seen in 'Nosferau' is not something seen in many horror films today, so in a way horror has taken a step back since 1922 (although this is not to say it is the case with all horror - think 'Peeping Tom').
The choice of locations here are very evocative, the big castles, the landscapes the boat and the sea. Orlock's journey being set on the ship with the sails silhouetted against the sky and the chopping waves helps create a tension and atmosphere. I definitely felt the use of the sea reminded me of the introductions to Hideo Nakata's 'Ring' films. I love the mansion that Orlock chooses to travel to to live in. We see very little of it, but the many windows have a definite sense of mystery.
The special effects of the day were clearly very limited and simplistic. Though i feel they have a certain charm to them. I particularly liked the speeding up of the horse and carriage for the unnatural and unearthly effect. Dated for sure, but it's a nice idea.
Simply put 'Nosferatu' is one of the greatest films of all time and one that can be studied in depth as a textbook example of evocative imagery and on screen presence.
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