Thursday, October 30, 2014
Nosferatu (1922 film)
Based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, Nosferatu is the story of a real estates agent who meets a mysterious count who starts to haunt the agent’s wife and claim her for himself. Directed by F.W. Murnau and screenplay by Henrik Galeen, the film is a stylish take on Stoker’s tale that is told in the form of expressionist images as the titular character/Count Orlok is played by Max Schreck. Also starring Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schroder, Alexander Granach, Ruth Landshoff, and Wolfgang Heinz. Nosferatu is an entrancing and riveting film from F.W. Murnau.
The film is a simple story about a real estates agent who travels to Transylvania to finalize a deal for a mysterious count who is revealed to be a vampire as he goes after the agent’s wife and haunts her. While it is a different interpretation of the vampire story by Bram Stoker, the film does play into the many mysteries that goes on in relation to Count Orlok and Nosferatu as he is someone that is eager to haunt a small German town by buying a house through its real estate employer. For the agent Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim), he has no idea what he has gotten himself into as he barely survives his encounter while realizing that Nosferatu is going to go after his wife Ellen (Greta Schroder) who is waiting anxiously for Hutter to return.
The film’s screenplay does have a simple plot but it is more about the motivations of Nosferatu and his desire for Ellen through Hutter’s picture of her as it would have him doing things to reach his destination. Adding to that sense of turmoil for Hutter and the anguished Ellen is Hutter’s employer Knock (Alexander Granach) who is revealed to be working for Nosferatu. Upon Hutter’s disappearance and his attempts to return, the arrival of Professor Bulwer (John Gottowt) would have him examine Ellen while being the one person who can understand what is happening as he is the only one that knows the power of Nosferatu.
F.W. Murnau’s direction is quite mesmerizing for the way he captures every moment in the film while using some stylish editing to create some tricks about how Nosferatu would appear through his vampire powers. Much of the compositions are simple yet very effective in the sense of drama and terror that occurs. There aren’t a lot of movements in the cameras but Murnau does manage to use a lot of wide shots to capture some of the unique effects that occur as well as the eerie presence of Nosferatu whenever he is going after Ellen. Much of the direction has Murnau use the full-frame aspect ratio where he gets a lot of coverage in the scenes as well as playing into Nosferatu’s presence with its use of shadows which becomes very prevalent in the film’s climax in his meeting with Ellen. Overall, Murnau creates a very intoxicating and ominous film about a vampire stalking his prey.
Cinematographers Fritz Arno Wagner and Gunther Kampf do excellent work with the film‘s grainy photography style with dashes of color filters from sepia-yellow, blue, and red to play into the different moods of the film. Art director/costume designer Albin Grau does fantastic work with the set/costumes from the look of Count Orlok‘s home as well as the clothes that he wears in the film. The film’s music by James Bernard, from its 1997 restoration/reissue edition, is amazing for its flourishing orchestral score to play into the sense of drama and terror that looms in the film.
The film’s marvelous cast features some notable small roles from Ruth Landshoff as Ellen’s friend Annie, Georg H. Schnell as Annie’s husband Harding, Wolfgang Heinz as a first mate who would discover the mysterious cause of the deaths in the ship, Max Nemetz as the ship’s captain, and John Gottowt as the eccentric Professor Bulwer who seems to know what Nosferatu is. Alexander Granach is excellent as the very strange Knock who instructs Hutter to take part on the journey to Transylvania as he is revealed to be a servant of Nosferatu. Greta Schroder is fantastic as Ellen as Hutter’s wife who is eager to wait for him as she begins to act strangely as it relates to Nosferatu’s arrival. Gustav von Wangenheim is brilliant as Thomas Hutter who travels to Transylvania unaware of what he is embarking as he becomes a prisoner of Nosferatu and tries to escape to save his wife. Finally, there’s Max Schreck in a phenomenal performance as Count Orlok/Nosferatu as this very odd yet creepy vampire who is very secretive but also scary as it’s definitely a performance for the ages.
Nosferatu is a remarkable film from F.W. Murnau that features an incredible performance from Max Schreck in the titular role. The film is definitely a must-see for fans of horror films as well as vampire films. Even as it plays to the idea of what vampires are and what they should be without any kind of compromise. In the end, Nosferatu is a sensational film from F.W. Murnau.
© thevoid99 2014
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Amazingly, this is still a very fun movie. And I've always thought the makeup job was spectacular. Great review.
It is fun while it makes me want to see Shadow of the Vampire just to see Willem Dafoe play Max Schreck.
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