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The vampire genre has seen its share of lackluster films. Indeed, the
centerpiece of the grand tradition, the Dracula legend, has seen so many
remakes and revisionist attempts that one would be hard pressed to find a
version of the tale that is original in its telling. Dracula, like it or
not, is a cornerstone of Western society. And it is wholly unfortunate
Bela Lugosi is considered THE Dracula (although Hammer fans may contend
Christopher Lee holds the title since he played the good Count over twenty
With Werner Herzog's "Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht" (also known as "Nosferatu: The Vampyre"), the old Hollywood rules seem to have been thrown out the window in favor of F.W. Murnau's striking silent film, the 1922 masterpiece "Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie der Grauens" ("Nosferatu: A Symphony of Terror"). While many purists of the genre balk at the idea of favoring the Nosferatu tale over the time-tested Tod Browning and Terence Fisher entries, one must realize that the cape-clad widow's peak Count has been sullied by a thousand parodies over time, and is simply not a frightening entity any longer. This was a matter much pondered by Francis Ford Coppola when considering his adaptation. While Gary Oldman's portrayal was serviceable and definitely different, something key was lacking from the tale.
This is what Herzog and his long-time "trouble and strife" lead man Klaus Kinski found when they ventured upon the "Nosferatu" remake. Herzog shifted the attention of the viewer away from the plot, which acts mostly as a backdrop for the imagery, and made it so the primary intake becomes a visual one. Kinski's Dracula is not the scowling insect of the Murnau film. He portrays the Count in a way that no other actor has quite grasped. In this film, Dracula is a suffering being, loathing every moment of his curse's continuation. Of course, as the good Count himself states, "Young men. You are like the villagers. and cannot place yourself in the soul of the hunter." The vampyre is trapped by his instincts, and Kinski's eyes betray harrowing madness (as they did in "Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes"), spiteful malice, and a sorrow so bottomless it defies description. It is as if the beast wishes to weep, but has forgotten how.
Filming on location in Germany, Herzog uses the same dreamlike camera angles, mixing them with a rich color palette and masterful lighting. There is a certain uneasiness that filters outward from the screen as you watch. As Jonathan Harker explores his surroundings during his lodging at Castle Dracula, there is inexplicably a young gypsy boy incessantly playing a scratchy violin under the archway. The surreality of the picture is only matched by its attention to the dark magic of the vampire. Like its predecessor, it actually seems to believe in the creatures, and respects them. It holds the legend, the plight of the people of Wismar, and the plight of the Count himself in deep reverence.
What can be extracted from the dialogue and plot is that this is not your average bloodsuckers extravaganza. In fact, the good Count only sets his fangs to the throat of the living once on screen, and when that occurs, it lends more of a feeling of sacrifice and sorrow than of terror. Indeed, the tone of the film is driven toward tragedy, and does not shift its course. One of the film's more telling moments is when Dracula, alone with Harker's beloved Lucy, ventures to plead with the beautiful lady, "Will you come to me. become my ally? Bring salvation to your husband. and to me. The absence of love. is the most abject pain." When she refuses, he does not lash out or decide to make a meal of her then and there. He instead moans with the intonation of a wounded animal and slinks off into the night.
"Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht" is the most complete of vampire films, and towers over the genre. It could be considered a pity that the only film that sits upon its coattails is its predecessor of the same name. Under Herzog's direction (wisely choosing to avoid remaking classic shots), we get an entirely different film that exudes an entirely different feeling. It not only maintains the eerie horror that the genre deserves, but also achieves a beauty and mystique that has been lost over the years. A must-see.
Another classic collaboration of Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski,
Nosferatu is not just a remake of the F. W. Murnau silent classic, but
an extension of it. Herzog not only develops the Stoker story more
directly than the original did, but even reintroduces the original
characters - Orlok becomes Dracula, and the Hutters become the Harkers.
Like many of the films involving Herzog and Kinski, Nosferatu is a period piece and creates the context of its plot through beautiful cinematography and a relentless but unhasty pace, not through the script. ThoughKinski dominates the screen just as he always does in these collaborations, the performances of fellow greats Isabelle Adjani and Bruno Ganz are also worthy of mention. Ganz's Jonathan Harker is certainly the most sympathetic character in the film, and Adjani's Lucy is beautiful, spooky, and just odd enough to fit the role perfectly.
Nosferatu is a retelling of the Dracula tale. Unlike its generally inferior competitors, Nosferatu - both the 1922 and 1979 versions - sticks very close to Bram Stoker's text - neither elaborating the focus on bloodsucking (obsessed upon by most American interpretations of Dracula), nor revising Jonathan Harker and Dr. Van Helsing as heroic characters, nor adding erotic or romantic elements to the depravity of the original concept. If you know what Stoker was about, you will thrill to the often forgotten aspects of Stoker's novel which are redeemed here - the plague rats, the gypsies, etc.
Kinki's intensity allows him to become a perfect Dracula. He understands his role perfectly and never once slips out of 'the hunter'. This is another very important aspect of the Stoker legend which has been sadly contorted by the popularization of the Dracula legend. Nosferatu's Count Dracula is not a charming eastern European gentleman with a quirky bloodsucking habit and a lovesick soul, he is a wily, terrifying, soulless, inhuman, obsessive, predator. And he has absolutely no concern for the affairs of Homo sapiens sapiens.
The film is mostly shot in Amsterdam's old city, which fits the mood of the film well. Other locations are in Germany, and Dracula's castle, for once, is an actual castle - even the interior shots! The wonderfully eerie and disorienting Popul Vuh soundtrack compliments the typically Herzogian picture-perfect visuals.
This is a great film for those seeking an accessible introduction to film-as-art, and the legendary collaborations of Herzog and Kinski. It will likely annoy those who think of Dracula as a good looking romantic guy with a nasty habit, but is highly recommended for fans of Stoker's original work.
Werner Herzog's remake of F. W. Murnau's classic film (the story for which
Murnau stole without permission from Bram Stoker) is, thus far, my absolute
favorite vampire film. I've only ever met one other person who made this
claim. Everyone else said they were so bored by it that they either gave up
on it or fell asleep in front of the TV.
I can understand this, even if I don't like it. Herzog's film moves at the pace of a fever dream, lingering long on shots of misty mountains and majestic rivers that some (like myself) will find breathtakingly beautiful, and others will find stunningly dull. This is a shame, but in these days of ten car chases, eight explosions and five sweaty sex scenes per film, I guess no one wants to appreciate the scenery as a main character anymore. Herzog has always had a knack for this, as anyone who has seen "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" well knows.
But, I digress. This version of Nosferatu, in places almost a frame for frame remake, is a masterpiece of homage. The slow, somewhat exaggerated reactions of his characters brilliantly echo the performances given by the silent actors in the original film. The landscape is moody and lovely and the sets are gorgeous, especially the phantom castle of The Count, haunted by memories and the strange ghost of a violin playing child. Lovely, ice-white Isabelle Adjani is here as the good and virtuous Lucy (the name reversal of the female characters is rather inexplicable, but it doesn't really matter) floating through the film like a beautiful dream and never once weakening in her faith, even in the face of ultimate horror. Bruno Ganz is somewhat stiff and unemotional, and one has to wonder why Lucy goes to such lengths to save this man who, for some reason, she loves with all her heart. Only in his moments of sickness and fear does Ganz emerge from his emotional void. But it is Klaus Kinski's incredible shadow that stretches over this film and swallows it whole.
Kinski plays his rat-faced, bald headed vampire with perfection. Yes, he complains about the loneliness of being undead, he laments his existence outside the realm of love and humanity, but he does it with a shrug instead of a whine, as if to say: "Yeah, I'm pretty much screwed, but what're ya gonna do?" He brings to his role of Vampire what very few actors (aside from Gary Oldman) have been able to: sympathy. He may hate what he has become, but he never apologizes for it. He is the ultimate scavenger, feeding off the dead and hiding in the darkness. Kinski's Count cannot even seduce. He simply takes. But his one scene with Isabelle is simply devastating, as he at long last reaches out to someone, hoping for love and salvation, and then quickly withdraws, the pain quite clear on his face, as he is sternly rejected.
The ending seems rather rushed and not very well thought-out; a true downer which basically nullifies the film. But the rest of the film is more than worth it, from the opening scenes of rotting mummies and bats flying in slow motion through to the muted spectacle of plague ridden madness as the dying dance in the streets to mournful background music. If you're expecting lots of splattering blood and half dressed girls writhing on their beds, then forget about appreciating this movie. You won't. But if you have a taste for grown-up fairy tales and stunning visuals, see this film.
Werner Herzog's version of Murnau's classic NOSFERATU is a captivating
experience. Klaus Kinski is perfect as Count Dracula. He brilliantly
conveys the loneliness and sadness of a creature who longs to be human.
Count Dracula is the victim in this film, he does not enjoy his immortality
and wants only to live, love and die like a human. Isabelle Adjani's
ethereal beauty punctuates her ghostlike performance as Lucy, and Bruno Ganz
turns in another solid performance as Jonathan.
Like other Herzog films, NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE is exquisitely photographed, eliciting an almost transcendental experience. Jonathan's journey to Dracula's castle, the dancing of the plague-ridden townsfolk, and the final scene are prime examples.
Once again, using the compositions of Popol Vuh and Wagner, Herzog creates an effective amalgamation of images an music.
One drawback to the film is that it is so beautiful to look at, it is not especially frightening. This may discourage some Dracula fans, but to those who want a hypnotic, smart vampire film, this is the one to see.
It was only recently that I finally got to experience a Werner Herzog
film. And I say experience because you don't just watch a Werner Herzog
film, you experience it. Otherwordly images will appear on the screen
whisking you away to strange unusual worlds. When I first saw
Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre: The Wrath of God I was spellbound. I was
astounded at how much Herzog could evoke while relying solely on the
grandness of his visuals. So when I decided to finally see Werner
Herzogs remake of F.W. Murnaus classic silent film Nosferatu, I knew I
was in for something special. And I was. Simply put, this is one of the
finest vampire movies ever made.
The story is one every horror fan is familiar with. Count Dracula is interested in purchasing a new home in England, so Jonathan Harker a real estate agent is sent to Draculas castle high in the Carpathian mountains to sign the legal documents that will seal the deal. Of course what Harker isn't ready for is the fact that Count Dracula is actually a vampire, a man who sold his soul to Satan and now walks the earth as an undead bloodsucker. Dracula falls for Harkers girl and tries to take her from him, you know the drill.
From the small synopsis I typed on that last paragraph you think, yeah, seen one Dracula you seen em all. Right? Wrong! Though this movie does have the same plot line that we have seen hundreds of times in different vampire films, this one certainly has something that makes it different. First and foremost, this film was directed by Werner Herzog and it isn't going to be your regular ordinary vampire movie. There's a certain visual splendor that goes with all of Herzogs films and its evidently present in this film.
What I admire most about Herzog is that he doesn't rely on special effects to make his movies visually interesting. The guy goes to a mountain deep in the middle of nowhere, he looks for the most beautiful and exotic location possible and then shoots his film there. He did it in Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo and he did it again here. Herzogs special effects depend on nature itself. When Jonathan Harker embarks on his journey towards Draculas castle you'll be swept away on a journey that takes you to misty mountains and forceful rivers. So be ready for a film that takes you to some of the most beautiful and exotic places on this earth.
This really isn't a full remake of Murnaus film because what this film really does is mix both Murnaus film and Bram Stokers novel. Instead of Count Orlock we get Dracula. So its sort of a mix of both sources.
Then of course we have the second strongest point in many of Herzogs films. Actor Klaus Kinsky. This guy completely devours the Dracula character and brings him to life in a way that no other actor has ever done. This Dracula isn't a sexy, well dressed lady killer. This guy is animalistic in nature, a creature hunting for his pray, a tortured soul yes, almost disgusted at who he is but at the same time accepting it fully. So much is conveyed through Kinskys performance, his eyes, his hands and pointy nails, and his whispering voice. A very creepy Dracula if you ask me.
A thing that makes this film standout as well is its realism. There's not a single special effect on this movie save for Klaus Kinskys Dracula make up. Everything else is as real as it gets. Draculas castle isn't a miniature or computer generated image, its a real castle. Its not even a set! Its a real freaking castle! When Dracula sucks blood he doesn't go into a bloodbath dripping blood all over the place, he sucks the blood with great care and precision not to spill a single drop. Almost like a baby sucking on his mothers breast. When the sun hits a vampire, its not a visual effects spectacle, the vampire just dies and falls in the floor when the sun hits him. When Dracula transforms into a bat, Herzog shows a real life bat in slow motion in all its natural beauty. Its like everything is done in the most realistic way possible. Nothing is an exaggeration. And when Draculas shadow moves along as if having a life of its own, its an effect done for real. On camera with lights and shadows. Kind of reminded me of Gary Shermans Poltergeist III in that sense.
A warning though, this movie is not fast paced. Its deliberately paced to be creepy and dreamlike. Herzog will stay focused on things for long periods of time so you can really transport yourself to the moment. Well at least thats the way I saw it, I'm sure many people out there might find the movie extremely slow or boring. But not me. To me, this movie was extremely creepy and realistic. Extremely well acted on Kinskys part and just an extremely cool visual trip.
If you're one of those persons that needs explosions and gunshots every five minutes steer clear away from this one, but in the other hand if you have an artistic side that can appreciate a beautiful film like this one then I highly recommended you check Nosferatu: The Vampire right away and experience the visual splendor of a Werner Herzog film.
Rating: 5 out of 5
I saw this as part of a double feature with Aguirre: The Wrath of God. Needless to say, it wasn't an evening of giggles. This is a film from beginning to end about pestilence. There is the actual plague. There are characters who are walking demonstrations of pestilence. There is the sad, defeated, Count who, as we all know, is not happy with his condition, but is programmed to steep himself in blood. The characters of Kinski and Adjani are on a collision course. Only through human sacrifice and lust can this demon be destroyed. It's a gray, striking film, full of sadness and despair. Kinski is visually stunning as the vampire. He is remindful of count Orlock in the Murnau film. There is more sensuality in this film (there are less limitations). Still, like its predecessor, the star of the show is death and the scenes with the rats and the people dancing away their last days, the coffins carried through the streets, are as striking as any performance. Herzog brings out the weight of human despair.
In Wismar, Germany, Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) and the real state agent
Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz) is a happily married couple. Jonathan's
boss Renfield (Roland Topor) sends him to Transylvania to sell an old
house in Wismar to Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski). Jonathan is advised by
the locals of a village to return since the count is a vampire, but he
does not give up of his intent.
Jonathan visits Count Dracula and when he sees the photograph of Lucy, he immediately buys the real estate. He drinks the blood of Jonathan and navigates to Wismar, carrying coffins with the soil of his land, rats and plague in the ship. Along the voyage, Count Dracula kills the crew-members and a ghost vessel arrives in Wismar. Meanwhile Jonathan rides to his homeland to save Lucy from the vampire.
"Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht" is a wonderful and atmospheric remake of F. W. Murnau's classic film based on Bram Stoker's novel (but uncredited). Herzog has also changed the ending of the novel and uses wonderful cinematography supported by magnificent performances in his version. Klaus Kinski is one of the scariest Dracula of cinema history. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Nosferatu - O Vampiro da Noite" ("Nosferatu The Vampire of the Night")
What artistic brilliance upon Werner Herzog's behalf, but Klaus Kiniski and Isabelle Adjani stamp their lasting marks as well. Never have I been so caught up, amazed and blown away from such profound positioning, poetically creative imagery and mesmerizing performances. I found it incredibly hard to take my eyes off the screen, even though the story has been done to death. Each vividly lush and fairy-tale engraved set piece is set-up, and I hungrily waited to analyse and soak-up this magnificent art form of symbolic and superstitious embellishment. Atmospheric, old fashion chills of the subtle, but still blood-curdling kind fill Herzog's stunningly protracted direction. The story is there, but it's the little details that sets this canvas in motion. The gloomy tone of the film is powerfully brooding from the air of growing despair, loneliness to the smothering stench of dark, lingering death. Kiniski sensationally emit's a sullen, heart-felt turn where he's shadowy exterior creeps up upon you and causes goose bumps. His make-up and body movement is simply trance-like, and stares you down. He's a scavenger, which goes after what he wants and not under any sort seductive appeal. A soulful Adjani is awe-inspiring, and gracefully evokes a versatile performance that also demands your attention. A quite dry Bruno Gaz does well, and an unforgettable Roland Topor as Dracula's loyal servant totally cackles like an on edge hyena. Picturesque cinematography with unique camera-shots, and a forlornly dreamy orchestral music score set the tone. I pretty much agree with others when they say it's a hard one to put into clear and concise words. Just see it.
This Herzog adaptation of the Dracula story, filtered through the memory in
particular of Murnau's "Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrors", is largely a
successful film. It is great in parts and in aspects, but doesn't quite
amount to a whole that approaches superlative status.
Klaus Kinski is rather good, but not quite spellbinding, in the much-donned
cape of the old Count. He is not quite up to the vastly contrasting
interpretations I have seen - Schreck and Lugosi.
Isabelle Adjani? Hers is far from a terrible performance, as one commentator
has said; she is, indeed, reasonable in a role often lacking embellishment
in other adaptations. Of course, her striking good looks are certainly far
The chap playing Renfield (the madman, so amusingly and vividly portrayed by
Dwight Frye in the 1931 Universal "Dracula") is effective in portraying an
outright giggling madman - his laugh is one of *the* most absurd and insane
sounds I have heard in film...!
The use of music is wonderful, as is Herzog's visual direction - the plague
scenes leave quite an impression on the mind, and most scenes are accorded
impressive backdrops and appropriate visual textures. Popol Vuh's musical
textures are dreamily beguiling, setting just the right tone for Herzog's
The film's downside has to be in the dramatics really; the dialogue and
subsequent delivery of, are far from great, perhaps owing to the fact that
most of the performers' native tongues are not English, and here they have
to speak just that language. There is never quite enough dramatic tension
induced by the script or the acting; at times the Renfield chap and Kinski
are compelling, but only fitfully.
Having said all this, it is a fine rendition on film of a rather old and, frankly, enduring story. Herzog must take the credit for its effective atmosphere, but perhaps also the blame for the lacking dramatics. Certainly an enjoyable, generally impressive film.
Herzog deserves hats off, any academy award for best director. A film so beautiful should be more well known. The atmosphere is stuck with you from the beginning with the chants and the screams. The characters fit the film perfectly, besides the librarian guy. The colors were great, the shots were planned out great. The simplicity of a shadow was made so mesmerizing. I felt chills all around my body after watching this film. It had a touch with all those shadows and the shot with the vampires hand going down. Not only the best vampire movie EVER but a fantastic film, period. All I can say is Herzog did a wonderful job with this one.
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