A reworking of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu (full title: Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie Des Grauens) offers a taste of pure horror from a time before literature’s vampires became corrupted by the cinema.
F.W Murnau’s icy chiller takes real estate agent Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) on a journey into the Carpathian Mountains and into the castle of Graf Orlok, from bourgeois morality to an encounter with the sexual power of the unconscious.
Few movie monsters have been as memorable as Max Schreck’s Graf Orlok, a shaved, cadaverous, two-legged rodent with bat ears and claw-like nails stalking the decks of a ship and Hutter’s Bremen home where his wife (Greta Schröder) awaits her vampire lover.
Stoker’s widow famously tried to have the film destroyed but succeeded only in forcing a title change. Yet in truth Nosferatu is far removed from Stoker’s original tale though it is as much dark romance as it is fantastical shocker.
A favourite on the festival circuit – and often selected by modern composers as a project for a new soundtrack – this silent expressionistic experiment remains as subversive and avant-garde as it was when it was made in 1922.
Nosferatu dates from a period of cinema when vampires were still scary. There is something deeply unpleasant about Orlok’s physical appearance, something folkloric and nasty. Sharp-eyed audiences may notice that his fingernails grow longer as the movie progresses. Now that’s creepy…