Nosferatu the Vampyre (Werner Herzog, 1977)
This Gothic homage to F.W. Murnau’s Expressionistic masterpiece of 1922, brings to the big screen another vision of the classic story of Dracula. Shot simultaneously in German and in English, Werner Herzog’s version of Nosferatu highlights the bleak bringing of the plague and the loneliness of its title character.
Starring the unique Klaus Kinski, the beautiful and sometimes eerie Isabelle Adjani, and the subtle Bruno Ganz, Herzog’s film has sometimes been qualified as stronger than Murnau’s. To say such things would be to minimize the importance of the Silent master’s film. In the same time, Herzog’s film is haunting and presents some of the most striking images that Horror has ever presented. With the opening sequence of the mummies, the invasion of thousands of rats in the city, and the ghost ship entering the port, those are some of the most interesting sequences from Herzog’s film. His signature is everywhere and the soundtrack by Popol Vuh and the Richard Wagner track are some of the most enchanting elements that Horror has ever displayed.
There’s a great solemnity and silence in Nosferatu the Vampyre, an epicness that only Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo has ever captured. Herzog provokes natural elements and shoots them with his eye for directing raw and strong scenes. There’s some kind of mystic inspiration in his greatest movies that he and only him has ever printed on films.
When compared to Murnau’s Nosferatu, Herzog’s is an homage and a personal reinterpretation of the original material. Kinski manages to filled Max Schreck’s shoes with grandeur and intensity. A character that could easily be caricatured or ridiculous if not played on the right note. The fact that Herzog couldn’t shoot at the same locations and had to shoot in the Netherlands gave an eerie and intriguing angle to the story. His vision is even bleaker and darker and the mise en scène is somewhat quite unique.
After having watched both films to write respective reviews for each film, I must admit that I would be more inclined to watch Herzog’s film more often than Murnau’s. Even if Murnau’s Nosferatu I must have watch dozens of times more often than Herzog’s. However, they are like companion pieces because they respond to each other and both directors translated the story with his own vision. Both were at the high of their respective careers when they made their Nosferatu. A near-masterpiece that I highly recommend.