Sunday, April 13, 2008

15. Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie Des Grauens (Nosferatu, A Symphony Of Terror) - 1922


Director: F. W. Murnau

Synopsis: It's just Dracula with different names.

Review: I mentioned in the Caligari review that ditching realism completely can be awesome. Sometimes it's better to have just one thing slightly off. That one element seems stranger by comparison. That is what Max Schreck/Count Orlock, pictured above, is in this movie.

He's just so freaky looking that every shot with him is automatically scarier for having him in it. I think many of the shots with him are compositionally better, but placing him in front of a blank wall would be creepy. Here is his famous shadow:
I saw this movie when I was little and that specific image is stuck forever in my mind. I know it's been reused and referenced to stick it in anyone's mind, but I still remember seeing this the first time when I was about seven. Everything I remember about this movie is purely visual and therein lies the problem.
Orlock is on screen for nine minutes out of 94. He completely overshadowed everything else in the movie; I believe this is typically referred to as Anthony Hopkins in Silence Of The Lambs syndrome. After seeing this movie, could one even describe what any of the other characters or non-Orlock settings look like? Max Schreck plays two characters, the creepy guy in the Knock's real estate office, and even that is forgettable. It's not entirely Schreck's creepiness that overpowers the rest of the film though.

How many vampire movies are there? How many of them follow this pattern?
  1. Man goes to Transylvania
  2. Man mentions visiting Count Dracula/Count Orlock
  3. Townsfolk look at Man with distrust
  4. Man makes it to Dracula's castle
  5. It's mostly deserted and Dracula shows up out of nowhere looking creepy
  6. On and on and on and on and on and on
The basic Dracula plot does nothing for me anymore. I've seen it too many times to be affected. Once you see Orlock, the rest of the movie is waiting for Orlock to show up again. Murnau was smart enough to space out the shots with Orlock and make each one slightly more interesting than the last. The second half is just kind of boring because it's just standard vampire movie.

I sound like this movie sucks, but it really doesn't. For the visuals alone it's awesome. There are even some decent shots of things moving by themselves thanks to the power of editing, but they have kind of lost their affect over time as well.

Also of special note in this movie, this guy's beard:
Watch this right now here.

Some non-vampire pictures of Max Schreck can be found online here. I include the link only for research purposes. Outside of Germany, the works and likeness of Max Schreck are unavailable unless one has a copy of the out of print VHS Die Stra├če. People can also decide for themselves whether Murnau, who correctly felt nothing more than pointed ears were required to make Schreck vampiric, was correct in describing Schreck as "strikingly ugly."

Score: 8/10

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