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Vampires should be seen and not heard,
This review is from: Nosferatu (1922) - Two-disc set [DVD] (DVD)
Murnau's film is a fairly free adaptation of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula', made without the consent of the Stoker estate and almost lost as a result of the legal action that followed. Fortunately a few prints survived, allowing 'Nosferatu' to be released in several VHS editions and finally on a 2-disc DVD.
Murnau creates a Gothic landscape that is as much a part of the film's horror as any of the events. Nature itself becomes increasingly threatening as Hutter (the renamed Harker character) approaches Castle Orlok (we have a 'Count Orlok' here instead of Dracula) - a key part of Murnau's vision, for his vampire is an extension of the natural world. Consumption is the natural order of existence: the vampire feeds upon humans just as they in turn consume the lower animals. The silence of the film, though a necessity at the time, is crucial to its success: the vampire has no voice, offers no explanations and no motives. He is a force of nature, needing no more justification than a spider preying upon flies.
Max Schreck's performance has become part of film legend, prompting suggestions that he was a real vampire (an idea explored in the 2000 film, 'Shadow of the Vampire'). Schreck's is possibly the most disturbing vampire ever to appear on screen. His fixed gaze and almost unnatural thinness make him seem ever-so-slightly inhuman. He is both a pathetic, lonely figure and a relentless killer, a blend that makes him doubly eerie.
It is a shame that Gustav von Wangenheim was not in the same class as Schreck: even by the standards of Expressionism, his performance seems ludicrous. Greta Schroeder is better as his dissatisfied bride. The triangle created between the three leads is the heart of the film: the vampire begins to represent the unfulfilled desires within the marriage, most explicitly in the famous final scene in which Orlok approaches Ellen on her bed while Hutter sleeps in a chair.
Though 'Nosferatu' is set in the mid-19th century, its inter-war German context is inescapable. The scene in which a seemingly unending line of coffins is carried in procession through the streets of Bremen is powerful now: to a German audience still reeling from defeat in the First World War and the economic depression following the Treaty of Versailles, it must have hit all too close to home. The film's bleak picture of a world in which destruction and consumption are the order of nature speaks volumes of the depression, in every sense of the word, that followed the Great War.
'Dracula' remains one of the most-filmed books of all time, but 'Nosferatu' has never been bettered. Bela Lugosi's aristocratic Count is more famous, but Murnau's vampire is more complex and more frightening. Films and TV series in recent years have tended to portray vampires as tortured souls or as underground subcultures, but watching this film reminded me that they were much more frightening before they started trying to explain themselves.
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Initial post: 9 Oct 2008 07:45:07 BDT
Last edited by the author on 9 Oct 2008 07:45:43 BDT
BD Muratori says:
How unbelievably true ! What is left unsaid and therefore to the imagination is always far far worse than anything else ! I could not agree more.
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