Nosferatu (1922)

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  • directed by F.W. Murnau
  • starring Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schröder, Alexander Granach, George H. Schnell
  • Vampire Count Orlok expresses interest in a new residence and real estate agent.

“Your precious blood!”

With the shadow of the story and estate of Bram Stoker hanging over what was an unlicensed and practically guerilla production, F.W. Murnau was forced to make a lot of changes to the now well-known Dracula universe with his Nosferatu. Some characters were cut, all names were changed, and some of the oft-referenced rules of vampiredom drastically altered. Perhaps most glaring, though, the legendary lead role played by Max Schreck gives our antagonist an animalistic and grotesque edge, in contrast to the suave portrayals of a lothario Dracula in later years. Schreck’s monstrous appearance and performance gives Nosferatu plenty of horror appeal and although he’s only on screen for a small fraction of the film’s 80+ minutes, Schreck’s towering Count Orlok is the main reason this movie retains such iconic status after almost a hundred years.

One other aspect that I believe contributes greatly to its power over time was the decision to film at real locations as opposed to fabricated sets. Murnau, one of the pioneers of a German Expressionist movement that utlilized highly stylized set design to twist reality, brought his film to real Northern Germany towns and landscapes, and instead of man-made architecture and backdrops, used evocative lighting and compositions to put his stamp on the proceedings. During the conclusion when the action moves to Wisborg, I really got a sense of how Murnau’s unconventional shots and angles of the crazed townspeople storming around streets and buildings were his attempts at bringing some of the Expressionist brand of chaos to the most traditional of surroundings. This entire sequence flew with amazing direction and momentum. Orlok is not seen at all as the Wisborg citizens, mostly non-actors, are on a panic-ridden hunt on the streets, yet we feel his presence throughout. This is quite an achievement for such a meager and slow-moving threat and speaks to the wicked strength of the character they’d created.

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One Response to Nosferatu (1922)

  1. Pingback: Phantom (1922) | classixquest

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