Nosferatu (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1922)
A classic canon of Films with a major F and one of the earliest instalments of Horror in movies, Murnau’s Nosferatu has inspired, influenced, been copied, and idolized. This review won’t try to repeat the thousands of analysis and critics it already been praised and sang. However, this critic who is now writing at the third person, ranks it as one of his personal favorite films. Not just Silent films but films in general. It even was on this critic’s ballot for the 2012 Sight and Sound Poll. But BFI didn’t asked me to cast my votes so I won’t be bragging much about it.
Stealing the story of Dracula and changing minor elements with names and locations, Murnau elaborated one of the most enduring classic chills of all time. Who has never seen the shadow of Nosferatu (Max Schreck) slowly climbing those stairs to get to Ellen (Greta Schröder)? His insanely pure white bald head. His creepy castle and mysterious fields surrounding his domain. Thomas Hutter (Gustav Von Wangenheim) is sent in the Carpathians, Transylvania more precisely to sell an old property to Count Orlok/Nosferatu. On his way, many warns him to abort his journey but he continues until he meets this curious man living in an old castle where the oppression of its master is only palpable by night. Once he buys the house in Bremen, Nosferatu wants Ellen, Harker’s wife, and brings the plague and damnation with him.
The story of Nosferatu is quite conventional as for a vampire one, but it is more of a film about moods and atmospheres. The photography is quite unforgivable and by itself it would have been enough to frighten most of us.
Having read a bit more about Murnau in the recent years, I was more aware of the almost homoerotic relation between Nosferatu, Hutter, and Knock (Alexander Granach). This element that I never really noticed would be a way to demonstrate how Nosferatu is degraded and be a link with Murnau’s own sexuality. Take this like a grain of salt but I just saw that with my latest viewing. Because, in a way, Nosferatu or Dracula represents evil and the temptation of flesh for the English Protestants. The repressed sexuality that the charming devil brings with him and that wakes in the couple that seemed to be in an almost platonic love place.
So this review was not supposed to be too analytical but when I start writing about a movie I love this is what happens. It is also easy to get a copy of Nosferatu, but one has to be careful because the lenght varies and the music too. The first copy I owned was 66 minutes which is 28 minutes less than the widely known cut. Some DVD editions have alternative music sometimes from Metal groups and other times with minimalistic instruments.
I prefer to watch it on mute in the complete darkness and concentrate on the images and settings that Murnau seem to have had haunted for the shoot. With this context one must be ready to experience a satisfying classic Horror masterpiece.