Nosferatu (1922, F.W. Murnau) review
Nosferatu is one of our earliest films and certainly one of our most entertaining of earliest films. The film is shown in virtually every film history class throughout universities around the globe. It has been picked apart from every angle of meaning from that of pure expressionism to political nuance. The film did not win any awards after all the Oscars were still 5 more years away from creation.
The film is German and actually titled Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens which translates to Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. The film was instantly paired down to just Nosferatu. Directed by F.W. Murnau and staring Max Schreck as the vampire, the film was shot in 1921 and released in 1922. The story is an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but the names and details were changed in the movie because the studio was unable to buy the rights to the novel. Items like “vampire” became “Nosferatu” and “Count Dracula” became “Count Orlok.”
We’re lucky to have this film at all. Nosferatu was the first and only production of Prana Film company which was founded in 1921 by Enrico Dieckmann and Albin Grau. Albin Grau was an artist and specialized in the occult. Due to lawsuits by the Stoker estate the film company had to declare bankruptcy and evades the lawsuits altogether. Grau had the idea to shoot a vampire film during his wartime experiences. During the winter in 1916 a Serbian farmer told Grau that his father was a vampire and an Undead. Of course this gave Grau several ideas for movies. On Nosferatu he was not only the producer but he was also the production designer and responsible for how the entire film and characters look.
Henrik Galeen was sought after and wrote the screenplay for the film. He was especially experienced in dark romanticism and had worked on other screenplays. He set the story in a fictional North German harbor town named Wisborg. It was also his idea for the vampire to bring a plague to Wisborg when rats follow Nosferatu off the ship from which he lands in the harbor. It was his decision to leave out the character of Van Helsing, the vampire hunter.
The film is very engaging for 1922. The establishment of the alternate vampire that came to be known as “Dracula-type” this more rat-like depiction is very believable. This adaptation of Dracula is as positively hailed as the original Dracula itself. The movie is in public domain and because of that most of the copies of this film are of poor quality though it is easy to find the film. There are some very nice quality of film in release and it is well worth it to view one that is high quality so as not to miss any of the fine details of the film.
The film was remade in 1979 by German director Werner Herzog. Like all remakes that film is a film unto itself and should not necessarily be compared though it is also worth time to be viewed. Nosferatu is a part of film history but aside from what grade history may give, the film is scary and well made. It is a wonderful film and Max Schreck as Count Orlok is terrific to watch.*
Excellent – A Must See Film.
*Of course the poster is quite a collector item and there is only one known, true, original copy in existance. It is worth a fortune and very cool.
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