Shadow of the Vampire is a film about the making of a German all time classic silent horror-movie from 1922 called Nosferatu-Eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu-a Symphony of Horror). The production of Nosferatu had to deal with a lot of strange things (some crew members disappeared, some died). This movie focuses on the difficult relationship between Murnau, the director, and Schreck, the lead actor. Written by
What if the lead character in the film Nosferatu really was a vampire? Shadow of the Vampire explores this unusual concept as it follows the story of the filming of the 1921 silent film classic. Malkovich plays the role of Murnau, the German director who makes the bargain from hell to provide realism to his Dracula knock-off, only to find that he has unleashed a monster. This is a horror film that is really a psychological drama -- the true horror lies in the man who decides no price is too high for the making of his movie. At the same time, there's a lot of humor, as well as an intriguing glimpse of Berlin in the decadent 1920s.
Dafoe is definitely an Oscar nominee with this performance (and the film should get an Oscar for his make-up, too): especially powerful scenes include his describing his reaction to reading the novel Dracula, by Bram Stoker; and a confrontation with Murnau near the end of the film, when Murnau finally is forced to recognize what he has done. Strong acting performances from the supporting actors as well -- Elwes' accent wanders, as does Malkovich's, but the cast (including native Germans) is generally strong. Some really nice cinematography and editing.
It adds to the experience to have seen the silent film first, by the way; it is well worth viewing in any case. It's available in a remastered print with a good soundtrack. "Shadow" takes a few liberties with the original film, but not important ones (those night scenes were obviously not shot at night, for example).
I loved this film -- two thumbs up!
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