By Dan Skip Allen
From the very beginning with the overture, Nosferatu has a very ominous dark feeling to it. F.W. Murnau's film is the first of its kind, a vampire film. It came out one hundred years ago this week and still stands up as an achievement of cinema. The silent film classic looks as good as it can, considering its age. Silent films like this don't have great prints, but this print restored by Kino looks great.
Like many silent films of the era, Nosferatu has dialogue on the screen so the viewer can read and know what's going on between each scene. The dialogue is a way for the script by Henrik Galeen to be made more accessible. Like a lot of silent films, the actors have to be very expressive in their facial movements and emotions.
The film features the story of Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) and his wife, Ellen (Greta Shroeder). The two are a happily married couple. Count Orlok (Max Shrek) wants to buy a house near the Hutter's, so he summons him to his castle in Transylvania as a diversion. He leaves his servant Knock (Alexander Granach) back to prepare his new home for him.
Nosferatu is the classic retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula. They are very similar in nature but slightly different. The silent nature of this film means it has to do things other films can't. Future versions of Dracula lean in on the darkness and shadows. This film is very bright at times until Nosferatu has to feed, which is at night. The score by Hans Erdmann separates the melancholy from the dread and the day from the night.
Silent films of the era such as Charlie Chaplin's classics, Buster Keaton's work, and Harold Loyd's films all learned in on the comedic chops. Their films made the audience laugh. Whereas films like Nosferatu and others starring Lon Cheney we're more horrific. They intended to scare and surprise audiences. And that they did. This wasn't the norm for the time.
Nosferatu is a classic love story of these two people that have been separated by many miles and an ocean. They both long for each other. Neither of them will be happy until they are reunited with each other. Of course, the vampire and his henchman stand in their way of happiness, as well as an unidentified plague that has swept across the countryside and ship Nosferatu is traveling on.
With horror films, one aspect that has to be very believable is the creature effects and the look of the monsters. This film has a great-looking monster. The makeup and visuals are very creepy and scary looking. Nosferatu has long, dangly fingers and hands and pointy ears, and beady eyes. There aren't many monsters that look like this now or before.
Nosferatu is a great silent film that is the grandfather of the vampire films that came after it, primarily Dracula starring Bela Legosi. The cast is all fantastic in the film, including Max Shreck, who played Nosferatu. The score is perfect, and in silent films, it has to be. It's like a character in the film all on its own. The script adapts this classic story very well. So many other films took homage to Nosferatu, and that's a great thing. It's still around one hundred years later, though.
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