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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally - this authoritative edition presents an authentic and ravishing version, 3 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Nosferatu (Definitive Fully-restored version with original score) [Masters of Cinema] [1921] [DVD] (DVD)
If you are searching for a high-quality and highly authentic edition of this cinematic masterpiece, look no further, for this DVD-set is precisely that.

It can be surprisingly difficult to find a proper edition of this film. Different versions of it abound, and Amazon is not exactly helping the matter - as far as I can see, they have been indiscriminately mixing together reviews which refer to completely different editions. For instance, one of the "Amazon.co.uk Reviews" at the top of this product's page, states:

"This two-disc set gives you the choice of watching Nosferatu in either a sepia-tinted version or the original black & white. Both, however, feature the same modern electronic music score by Art Zoyd (at the movie's lavish 1922 premiere a live orchestra performed a newly composed, quasi-Wagnerian score by Hans Erdmann)." - Neither statement applies to this DVD-set; it features the Hans Erdmann score, and if there is an option to see the film in black and white, I have not found it yet (more about that in a moment).

So to prevent any misunderstanding: I am referring in this review to the "Eureka! The Masters of Cinema" edition released on 19 Nov 2007 (its cover shows a stylized drawing of Nosferatu on a blueish background, with a thin half-moon to his right and rats around his legs).

The Restoration:

The film is presented in its original format, which has been painstakingly restored. First of all, it features the German intertitles, both originals and imitations designed to look like the originals, all very stylish, and with optional English subtitles. In addition, the image has been digitally remastered. It is cleared of scratches and stains to a very high degree, and has been stabilised so as not to jerk sideways where frames have come to be slightly misaligned due to the print's age. It has also been digitally retouched for consistent brightness, which means it has very little of the usual flickering of old films.

The result is not just a steady and clear picture, it is positively astounding. I cannot begin to describe how much of a difference there is between this version and the scratchy, uneven, often dirty-looking versions I have grown accustomed to. There are shots of sublime beauty and clarity here, and by the end, I felt like in a way I had never actually seen "Nosferatu" before. This is not to say that you don't see the film's age, but at least the picture doesn't tell its wild history (barely escaping the destruction of every single copy) so palpably any more. The restoration leaves you not with a mere claim to a great film, but with a great film.

The Colouration:

The film has also been tinted. Here, I was initially slightly disappointed, seeing how reviews both on Amazon and elsewhere mentioned an option to watch the film in pure black and white. I cannot find such an option here - however, on reading the accompanying booklet (which by the way is highly informative), I came to realize that the tinting has not been done at the restorer's discretion (as I have sometimes suspected) but was part of the process of reconstructing, as authentically as possible, the original film as it would have been shown in 1922.

The booklet states that the restored version used for this DVD was done "by Luciano Berriatua on behalf of Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Stiftung [...]. A tinted nitrate print with French intertitles from 1922 of Cinematheque Française, Paris, was used as basis for the restoration" (p. 64). If we read on, we find that this "coloured copy of the first (1922) French version of the film" (p.73) was probably identical to the German original except for having different intertitles, and that "the French distributor had, as was normal at the time, received the coloured positive print from Germany, producing only the French titles in France. One could therefore assume that the French version was based on the same colouring plan as the German version" (p.73).

In other words, the print that was used for the restoration probably had the exact same colours as the original, and so the tinted version you see on this DVD is, for all we know, following as closely as possible the tinted version that was originally released in 1922. It has, however, been newly done, and thus has nothing of the faded look of other coloured versions.

The Music:

This, too, is unquestionably as authentic as it gets. Though no recording of the original score by Hans Erdmann was made at the time (all screenings being accompanied by live performances), the music suite used has been historically reconstructed, and it is such a reconstruction that has been recorded for this DVD (by the Radio Symphony Orchestra Saarbruecken, conducted by Berndt Heller). It is beautiful and, in my opinion, fits the film better than any attempt at writing new music for it I have encountered so far. I would go so far as to say that certain scenes become enhanced by this score to an unprecedented degree - I never found the first meeting of Hutter and Orlok or the ship scene to be so scary.

Overall:

This truly is a classic of cinema brought back to life, and until the version used here is released on Blu Ray (lets hope it will be!), this DVD-set remains the authoritative edition. Almost needless to mention, it also contains a full-length commentary track, a documentary about the film's making, a short featurette about the restoration, and a booklet with further information and articles. The documentary, as other reviewers have pointed out, leaves some things to be desired, but that cannot possibly matter next to just how gorgeous this restoration is.

Wholeheartedly recommended!
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Nov 2012 12:37:01 GMT
Ken Raus says:
What a suburb revue...everything a revue should be,critical,detailed and enthusiastic...I like to spell review that way though don't always stick to it...thanks for the clarification Amazon can't manage.

Posted on 27 Nov 2012 00:35:16 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Nov 2012 00:36:52 GMT
A. Holliday says:
Great review. And I had the same experience watching this version - it felt like watching the movie properly for the first time (and I've probably had about 5 different versions over the years). Before seeing the Eureka/Kino 'ultimate' edition I had thought of Nosferatu as a historically important horror film containing several great and iconic moments. Seeing a properly tinted, high quality print, with a truly appropriate score, has changed my opinion. This is one of the great films of all time, from start to finish. Period.

Let's hope the effort is made to create a HD master for a blu ray release.
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