Nosferatu / Nosferatu the Vampyre (1922 / 1979)


F. W. Murnau and Werner Herzog direct Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schroeder, Klaus Kinski, Bruno Ganz and Isabelle Adjani in these Bram Stoker’s Dracula influenced tales of a vampire count’s journey to (and destruction of) a small town. 

The masterpiece of German silent cinema and a most efficient (if somewhat bootlegged) adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel. These days it is hard to tell if Nosferatu is so eerie and memorable because of its antiquated, otherworldly format or because of some technical invention on Murnau’s part that is now commonplace. All I know is Schreck’s wholly physical depiction of the rotting immortal predator sends shivers down the spine, each and every time.


Herzog’s re-adaptation is surprisingly loyal – sometimes to the point of redundancy. He gets to use Stoker’s character names, some beautiful on location mountain shots, beefs up the female protagonist screentime and agency, opens up with unsettling shots of mummified corpses. He focuses more on the apocalyptic plague and destruction of society the cursed bloodsucker brings in his wake than the monstrous gothic romance. Rats teem around deserted cityscapes. And Kinski imbues his Nosferatu with a yearning and a sadness, a soul trapped in eternity as much as a grotesque to be avoided. Isolated from humanity, but a humanity depicted as uniformly senile or insane. In Herzog’s vision everyone is susceptible to the virus.


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