The German expressionist masterpiece is one of the very first vampire films in the world, it still remains a cinema reference today!
Icon of German Expressionism
This film was particularly inspired by two great expressionist films, Doctor Caligari’s Office (1920) by Robert Wiene, as well as Golem (1920) by Carl Boese and Paul Wegener. Filming took place entirely on live sets and outdoors, which was particularly innovative for the time. Nosferatu (1922) embodies German expressionism, as it deals with a universe straddling horror and fantasy. The camera adopts convex and twisted shapes specific to the anguish and dreamlike quality of the film.
Nosferatu is an illegal adaptation of Dracula
The story of Nosferatu is fun. Murnau not having had enough money to pay the royalties of the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897), he decided to change the title Dracula in Nosferatu (which means vampire or undeath in Romanian). Also, the director had made some changes to the characters and location. Dracula became Count Orlok, and the story takes place not in London but in the imaginary city of Wisborg. However, this was not enough to withstand the lawsuits brought by the novelist’s widow. She even managed to have the negatives of all copies of the film removed in 1925. Fortunately, some hidden copies were found in the United States in the 1930s. Thus the film still exists, because victim of its success, some had kept copies of the precious film.
Director’s head stolen!
84 years after his death, the grave of director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau was ransacked. Indeed, between July 4 and July 12, 2015, in the Stahndorf cemetery (near Berlin), the tomb of the deceased was broken into. We realized that the corpse was missing its head! The theft of his head was committed by people who have never been identified. This profane act, according to rumors, could be linked to occult activities. This is to say if the filmmaker has fueled the fantasies!
The legend of the actor
Another funny anecdote from the film. The entire technical team maintained a mystery around the actor Max Schreck who embodies the famous vampire. The latter claimed that he was truly a vampire, and for good reason the actor never showed himself without make-up during the filming. This former soldier of the German army during the First World War had a truly atypical physique. This film made him known internationally, but he also acted in plays and shot in another film by Murnau: The Grand Duke’s Finances (1924). Film that he did not appreciate war.
This film has made such an impression that many adaptations have been made. We retain the remake of Werner Herzog, Nosferatu, ghost of the night (1979), with Klaus Kinski, perfect to interpret this role of crazy vampire. But also the movie The shadow of the vampire (2000) which tells the secret story of the shooting of Murnau’s film. It is Wilhelm Defoe who interprets the role of the German actor who would be a real vampire. It is also thanks to this role that the American actor was chosen to take on the role of the green jester in Spiderman (2002). Finally we can mention Christopher Walken who is called Max Shreck, in reference to the original actor of Nosferatu in batman challenge (1992) by Tim Burton.
To understand the strength and impact of the film over time, this description of the film by the founder of the Cinémathèque, Henri Langlois, rings very true: Nosferatu the Vampire is the silent film par excellence. It engulfs in us the critical spirit, brings out the unknown, this demonic universe made of autosuggestion and panic fear that witchcraft and prayer provoked. It sensitizes us again to the primitive mentality, to the world of spirits, to the mystical virtues of omens, to the action of harmful forces inaccessible to the senses, specific to the prelogical mentality. It resuscitates in us the belief in the effective power of desire. (Henry Langlois)
A new screening will take place at the Arlequin cinema this Thursday, October 27! Go discover this masterpiece a few days before Halloween… Or enjoy the film available for free here below:
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5 things to know about Nosferatu celebrating its 100th anniversary | VL Media
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