Sunday, January 8, 2012

Nosferatu (1922)

or A Symphony of Horror.

Young real estate agent Hutter visits the strange Count Orlok to sell him a house. The local villagers are frightened of the Count and try to convince him not to go. Once inside Orlok's castle, he discovers that he is a vampire. Hutter escapes and makes his way back to Germany to confront the monster.

Several years ago when I received a DVD collection of horror classics, I was excited to see two titles: Metropolis, which amazed, and Nosferatu, which disappointed. The public domain copies of both are of such low quality I caution anyone from watching them. Interestingly, the "fully" restored versions had a reverse effect on me. I believe I liked Nosferatu better.

Back story on the film: the filmmakers wanted to do a version of Dracula and were all set to start when they were denied the rights to the story. So, they renamed all of the characters, changed some story elements, and made a "different" vampire story. Actually, a Nosferatu movie, a similar word that might mean undead. Or not. Well, Bram Stoker's widow sued their asses and the settlement was to destroy all copies of this film. Luckily for us, it survived.

Nosferatu is described as a classic example of German Expressionism. Not wishing this to become an artistic discussion, just think of Munch's "The Scream" in movie form. What Nosferatu offers us, despite a still poor quality media and some silly, over the top silent film acting, is a truly creepy monster and setting. Orlok is not the seductively stylish character of Bela's incarnation. He is a monster in every sense of the word. In fact, director Murnau described actor Max Schreck as "Strikingly ugly".

The "special effects" may not resonate with a CGI generation, but they worked well in the day. But it was the regular effects that steal the show. The vampire's shadow on the wall is iconic, and sets the mood appropriately.

Now, I was going to save this movie for when I did the survey of vampire movies like what I did with Frankenstein, but that film study book I read used it as an example film to tie together everything they discussed.

Nosferatu offers us a lot, visually and through story. It actually strays from the book significantly in the second half and offers a cool twist on the ending. It is required viewing for any horror fan. AMRU 4. See the restored version. Why does netflix claim it was made in 1929?

One last note: when doing werewolf movies, I discovered that IMdb has werewolf is one of it's plot keywords. A werewolf is mentioned, but it doesn't play a significant role in the film.

No comments:

Post a Comment