Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror
The heritage of movies is a great fascination of mine, as anyone who has been in the unfortunate position of being cornered by me, and subsequently endured a barrage of movie related drivel, will no doubt tell you. It disappoints me greatly that so many movie-goers allow some great films to pass them by, purely because of their age. I’m not suggesting that people stock their shelves with black and white movies, or anything that extreme. However, during a time when, more so than ever before, we’re being bombarded with remake after remake, I honestly believe that revisiting the original versions of some of these films gives a greater insight into the where a lot of modern cinema gets it’s origins.
This isn’t hollow rhetoric either, more and more I find myself hunting up older, classic films. And more and more I’m finding that much of what modern film makers are presenting on the screen, in new releases, owes much more than I’d ever imagined to the masters of film making who’ve come before them. Nosferatu is possibly the oldest movie I’ve ever watched, and I’m utterly blown away by how much of it still resonates in the films being released some eighty six years later.
In a gushy, self-important, movie-nerd, kinda way, I feel extremely privileged to have been able to sit down and view this movie. Because, to be honest — despite my earlier hot-air, and despite knowing the legendary place that Nosferatu has in cinema history — of my own accord I’d probably never have seen this film. Seriously, to audiences accustom to high-definition this, and THX / Surround Sound that, the idea of a grainy, black and white, silent movie is an extremely hard sell.
The reality is that the very fact that any copies of this movie have survived is amazing, considering that the widow of Bram Stoker won a suite against the film’s makers and all copies of the negatives were ordered destroyed. Ironically, it’s this 1922 version, even with all the character names changed, which is probably the closest adaptation to Stoker’s novel, Dracula.
The restoration which has been performed on this film is itself a work of art. Thanks to the abundance of extras which accompany the feature on this 2 disc ‘Directors Suite’ we’re given the opportunity to see just how deteriorated the surviving footage had become, before it was painstakingly restored. The score too, was completely re-recorded and is presented in Dolby 5.1 surround sound.
Thankfully, in the almost ninety years which have passed since the making of Nosferatu, film making techniques, technology, and the expectations of movie audiences have become more sophisticated. The end result is that, as a modern movie fan, it’s virtually impossible to watch this film and not be struck by the bold, over the top, performances which were part and parcel of the German Impressionistic style in which this film was made. Most will probably find the performances in this film to be rather ridiculous and laughable, but much of the enjoyment derived from this film comes from the sense that you are looking back through time and gaining an understanding of what audiences in the 1920’s found entertaining, and terrifying.
Today though, you’re hardly going to jump from your seat or claw at the arm of your chair in fear, as you watch this film. But, if you look past the technical limitations you’ll see that Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s direction, and Albin Grau’s production design, truly deserves the recognition of their brilliance. Without question, the work of Murnau, Grau, and the performance by Max Schreck as Count Orlok (Dracula) — who, despite only being on screen for 10 minutes worth of the movie manages to define the image of the creepy, rat-like, vampire — are still influencing modern film-makers, whether they know it or not!
If you consider yourself a fan, not just of the horror genre, but of film in general, then you really owe it to yourself to get your hands on this lovingly restored masterpiece. [source]