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19 June 2011

[Silent Film Marathon] 3# Nosferatu: A symphony of Horror (1922)

Directed by: F.W Murnau
Based on: Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Genre: Horror, Drama, Art house
All the way from Germany this is simply a classic film with memorable cinematography and an early horror film that inspired hundreds after it. The film was directed by German Expressionist F. W. Murnau and is a pioneer horror film for it’s period. It’s spooky, enthralling and is full of mystery. Nosferatu is based of Bram Stokers book, Dracula, but is an unauthorised adaptation. So vampire became Nosferatu and Count Dracula became Count Orlok. Full of it’s dark sets, sepia tone cameras and five acts full of thrilling horror, Nosferatu is one of the best horror films you’ll find. Here we have a film that was early for it’s time and some of the special effect techniques are fascinating. Whether it was stop-motion or rotoscoping these effects where very difficult to do at the time. It’s been nearly 90 years from this film premièred and here it lies today being discovered by film enthusiasts and historians to uncover the mystery of the silent film era and it’s wondrous pioneering methods.


The film is split into five acts. Act 1 sees us meeting our happy character and introducing him. His name is Thomas Hutter (Fancy that he’s got my first name). Hutter lives in the fictitious city of Walborg in Germany. His employer, Knock (Stoker's Renfield), sends Hutter to Transylvania to visit a new client named Count Orlok (Stoker's Count Dracula). Hutter entrusts his loving wife Ellen (Stoker's Mina Harker) to his good friend Harding (Stoker's Arthur Holmwood) and Harding's wife Annie (Stoker's Lucy Westenra), before embarking on his long journey. The other acts have us seeing Hutter on his journey to the castle and other great mysteries.
Hutter with his wife.

Put it this way, it is extremely likely that anyone who worked on this film is long deceased, and even people born in 1922 are barely here. The film has reached such an age it is strange to think cinema is 100 years+ old. Nosferatu is simply brilliant and stands well among the great films in the top 100. Believe it or not, this film has very tense and frightening moments, especially when we see Count Orlok approaching Hutter’s room. The terrifying make-up and look of something out of this world in his eyes had a great effect. The oldness also makes it scary with its black and white tone and jittery picture. The use of cameras was brilliant and it created a contrast of night and day. Day scenes were filmed in sepia tone and the night time scenes were sort of black & white with a tint of blue. The way the music starts the film off with that brilliant title card that at the time would have been surprising. The music overall creates an amazing atmosphere which is important and it is really spooky. Count Orlok played by Max Schreck as terrifyingly brilliant and the name would later be depicted in the film Batman Returns with the mayor having the same name which was claimed to be an ‘in-joke’.

 It was an unauthorized adaption as they could not gain rights to the book, and the company ‘Prana Film’, a small German film studio was sued for copyright infringement and want and lead to their bankruptcy. So this was their first and last film. Just imagine what would have happened if they were not sued, there could have been more wondrous films from the studio, but enough of the ‘IF’ question.  It’s fascinating that they tried this adaption, but imagine someone trying to do something like this today? It just goes to show copyright was and still is an issue. So Nosferatu has ended up as a rare film amongst the silent era and has become film for enthusiasts to dissect.
The shadow of Count Orlok, which soon became one of it's most memorable moments.

The film begins with a delightful happy life of Hutter, and the end of the film is dark, gloomy but still is a happy one, clearly being Nosferatu's death. Being the first of the vampire films, the surprising thing is since then we have had a somewhat 15 adaptions. From the top of my head I can name a few. We had the talkie film in 1930 staring Bella Lugosi called Dracula, Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992 and then today’s equivalent is an annoying vampire by the name of Edward in Twilight.  As I said Nosferatu is a rare film, not because of it’s age, but because of how it was produced. It is a film that infringed copyright and changed horror films to a certain extent, and lead on to other vampire films. It is clear it is one of the films that started the talk of vampires more and more, and the whole fictional theory of vampires has developed since the novel. So overall, whether you’re a film enthusiast, huge film fan or the casual movie watcher, you’re likely to enjoy this film because of it’s expressive content, wonderful performances and just plain creepy atmosphere. It's simply one of the finest silent films there is.

My Rating: 9/10







This film is also on the public domain so it can be watched here:
 

You can also download it here:

6 comments:

  1. I've always wanted to watch this. I was planning on watching it on youtube once. It's good to know you're posting these, man! I LOVE IT! Nice review, man. I am very very excited for your other silent films. Try the Cabinet of Dr. caligari.

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  5. Thomas, don't pay a lick of attention to that person. Everyone has their own style of critiquing. Some are wordy, some are insightful, some are short and to the point. This is not a writing contest site, though some may treat it as such. Continue sharing your helpful reviews with us and let the trolls wallow in their misery.

    P.S. I'm sending my comment here because I'm not sure if you received it at RT. (I'm scarletheels there.)

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  6. If you have not seen it, check out the film Shadow of the Vampire. It makes an interesting companion piece to this film. The movie is about the filming of Nosferatu and the key thing is that Max Schrek is an actual vampire. Willem Dafoe does a good job as Schrek and John Malkovich plays Murnau as a man who is striving to complete his film, while various members of the crew start going missing.

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