F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu – A Symphony of Horror aka Nosferatu – Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)

Murnau’s Nosferatu is the first horror movie that has ever been made. I think it is not the first vampire movie. There was another one that is forgotten by now, but Nosferatu is the first to be based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The German movie Nosferatu has written cinema history for many reasons. I had wanted to see it since years and thought I take the opportunity of the R.I.P. challenge to do so.

Murnau’s Nosferatu is one of the oldest movies  I have ever seen. As I am not such a fan of silent movies I was really sceptical. No need for that. Nosferatu is highly watchable. And very spooky. I got the restored version and it looks brilliant, the black and white is toned with different colours. Murnau chose to follow Bram Stoker’s Dracula very closely. Since it is a silent movie much of the horror is conveyed through facial expressions. If you have never seen a silent movie it takes some getting used to but then it is fascinating. It is quite relaxing to hear music and no talking for a change. If it was only for the figure of Nosferatu himself the movie would already be worth watching. The role made Max Schreck famous. Nosferatu is not a beautiful or erotic vampire although the element of sexual attraction is present. Murnau’s Nosferatu is dark and scary.

Hutter, the young assistant of a real estate agent, travels to Transylvania to close a contract with the ominous count Orlok. Orlok wants to buy an old house that is located opposite to where Ellen, Hutter’s young fiancée, lives.  The moment Hutter arrives in Transylvania there are many signs that point to something dark and evil. The castle in which Orlok lives towers gloomily over the city and no one wants to accompany young Hutter when he asks for a guide. When Hutter finally meets the count he let’s him see a picture of his bride and Orlok falls instantly in love. He can’t wait to get to Germany and boards a ship immediately. Hutter sees a horse carriage loaded with coffins and is shocked. He senses that his bride might be in danger.

Both travel to back to Germany as fast as they can. One by ship, the other one on horseback. When the ship arrives, the crew is found dead and rats are running all over the ship’s planks. When the dead are examined they have little marks on their necks and show all the signs of having died from the plague. Soon the whole town is struck by the plague.

Many of you know the story but for those who don’t I will stop here.

There are many elements that contribute to make this movie scary. The rats and the plague. The faces of the actors, heavily made-up with dark make-up around the eyes. The black and white pictures that make the scary elements look much more threatening. The locations, Bremen and other original places in Eastern Europe. Nothing was filmed in the studio. But there is more to it. We can feel a really dark undercurrent in this movie since it was meant to allude to the Spanish flu epidemic that had afflicted and traumatized Germany (and many other countries) from 1918-1919 and cost more lives than the Great War. And it also reflected the German’s fear of the Slavic people stemming from their experience of the war in Serbia.

Nosferatu is a truly haunting and very expressive movie that should be discovered or rediscovered by many.

I would be curious to know if anyone else has seen Nosferatu or what you think of the trailer.