If you love a good scare, the 1922 horror classic, Nosferatu is a definite must watch! A German silent movie based on the novel, Dracula, by Bram Stoker, it is a masterpiece of its genre. Here we have listed at least 10 reasons why this film cannot be given a miss:
A Symphony of Horror
The soundtrack of the movie was originally composed by Hans Erdmann. The eerie music lends a strange sense of mystery and ambiguity, which becomes the soul of this horror film. At the inn where Thomas Hutter halts for a night before continuing to Orlok’s castle, everybody becomes terrified at the mere mention of the Count’s name, horses flee and a hyena is heard in the distance, signifying the menacing doom that awaits Hutter at Count Orlok’s mansion.
Max Schreck’s Iconic Role as Count Orlok
‘Schreck,’ in German, literally translates to ‘terror.’ Schreck, in real life, was a loner with a twisted sense of humor, as per his colleagues. With his bulging head, pointed ears, dark eyebrows, rat-like teeth, and very long fingers and nails, Schreck breathes life into the monster. Some amongst the spectators had wondered if the vampire on screen was played by an actual “angel of death.” His unique walking-style in the movie has inspired the movements of many later monsters, like the creature in Frankenstein. Although having starred in over 40 movies, Schreck is best known for his role of Count Orlok in Nosferatu.
The Haunting Castle Actually Exists!
The castle of Count Orlok actually exists! Moreover, it’s still standing today in northern Slovakia! We have to admit, more the evidence from real life, more interesting the film becomes. This is especially true for horror films. The spooky mansion depicted in the movie is the actual centuries old Orava Castle, atop a fishing village, built originally in the 13th century. Ironically, the real castle, however, is considered to be one of the most beautiful castles of Slovakia. Also, the footage of the collapsed mansion at the end of the film was shot at an actual decaying castle of Slovakia, which began falling to ruins since the 16th century.
Dawn of the Popular Vampire Superstition
In his novel, Bram Stoker indicates that vampires get weakened when exposed to sunlight. He, however, never implies that they can die because of it. Count Dracula is often seen to leisurely stroll in the daytime; while Count Orlok turns into a smoke when he tries to escape from the morning rays of the sun at Hutter’s house. Thus, the myth that vampires can be vanquished when exposed to direct sunlight was born on the sets of this film.
Rare Gem of a Masterpiece
Although one of the best horror films in the history of the silent era, Stoker’s widow had sued for the unauthorized adaptation. Haunted by the lawsuit for copyright infringement, the producers sold the film to a production house which edited it without permission. The movie was further altered for its international release, leaving the uncut original version to be a rare find for film historians. The film was later restored, primarily by Spanish director, Luciano Berriatua, as an English subtitled version now available on YouTube. It is sure to give us some sleepless nights and children are better advised to watch it with adults in the room, if at all.
Boost to Expressionism
The Expressionist Movement in Germany was all about the portrayal of various negative emotions through distortion and chaos, through fantasy, more than a mere depiction of reality. Most of the designs on the sets and costumes, especially Count Orlok’s scary look, have been greatly influenced by the German horror story, The Golem. Grau, the chief designer and artistic producer of the film, was hugely inspired by the black-and-white expressionist illustrations of the novel. Expressionism, also being cheaper, gave a boost to the majestic fantasy style of the overall setting, which adds heart to the spook.
The Spine-Chilling Fear
It’s not exactly like today’s horror movies about demonic possession or ghosts coming out of TV screens. With the events unfolding in a more realistic setting of the 19th century, the movie is creepy in a sense of its own; with music adding to the suspense. Despite it being a low budget film, Murnau has fully used the limited resources to capture the dark atmosphere emitting the presence of a looming doom, which later inspired the actual adaptation of the 1931 English film, Dracula. Nosferatu also marks director F. W. Murnau’s major success in creating the macabre visuals inside Orlok’s spooky mansion, as well as his work with the haunting shadows of the nosferatu Count!
Not a Direct Dracula Adaptation
Although the plot of the film is based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the setting, characters, and names have been changed to for greater effect, quite successfully, in my opinion. While Stoker’s novel is based in 1893 Victorian England, the loose adaptation is seen to take place in 1838 Germany. The names of all the main characters have been changed, with a complete alteration of the vampire Count’s appearance. A major change in the film is the ending. Count Dracula, in the book, is destroyed by the vampire hunters. Nosferatu shows Count Orlok vanishing into smoke on exposure to direct sunlight.
The movie opened big in Germany and brought Murnau and Schreck into the limelight. Although several German critics and magazines applauded the film, the international buzz only began in later years, especially when the film topped the list of Empire’s 100 Best Films of World Cinema, now ranked at 21! The film, being from a pre-awards era, didn’t win any prizes. However, it is now regarded as a landmark of its genre.
Haunting of the ‘Nosferatu’
‘Nosferatu,’ the archaic word alone breathes death. Its meaning being synonymous to ‘vampire,’ it has been aptly portrayed by the menacing monster-like Orlok. Since the film was made back in the 1920s, it will not frighten you out of your seats with sudden attacks and appearances. But the haunting images have a way of staying with you long after. The most alluring aspect of the film is ushering of new techniques and tricks used to magnify the terror of the then silent horror genre. The film is indeed a must watch for any lover of a good scare, as well as for movie buffs in general.