100 Years of Nosferatu: The Vampire Movie That Will Never Die

His silhouette precedes him: skinny limbs and a long black coat, nails like claws: a shadow from another world that has appeared in the cinema for more than 100 years.

FW Murnau’s silent film, Nosferatu, and his villain Count Orlok, celebrate their centenary in 2022. The film will return to theaters across Europeand, in the world, festivals, conferences, art exhibitions and screenings accompanied by live music are scheduled to pay tribute to the immortal influence of Nosferatu, which survives as a tale, meme and ghostly cinematographic monster.

Over decades, Nosferatu inspired film directors, artists, musicians and designerswith the figure of Orlok on the surface of places as varied as the video game Red Dead Redemption 2 and as a visual gag in an episode of sponge Bob.

Werner Herzog released his haunting and romantic remake, nosferatu the vampirein 1979, while the work of E. Elias Merhige, Shadow of the Vampire, 2000reimagines the film’s production if its lead actor, Max Schreck, was really a vampire.

Nosferatu’s production company spent more on promoting the film than on filming. Photo: AFP

Orlok even served as an unlikely muse for Dutch fashion designers Viktor and Rolf, who launched a chic Nosferatu collection down the runways of Paris this year.

The naive and plagiarist vampire

However, while today is celebrated for its naivety, the public is almost denied the opportunity to see Nosferatudue to a dispute over how novel his ideas really were.

Nosferatu It begins with an unsuspecting young couple. Thomas Hutter leaves his wife, Helen, and her home in Wisburg, Germany, to sign a property contract with Orlok, a mysterious earl who lives in a castle in the mountains of Transylvania. Orlok is eccentric, then sinister

Friedrich Willhem Murnau, the director of Nosferatu.  Photo: AFP

Friedrich Willhem Murnau, the director of Nosferatu. Photo: AFP

Refuse food. He sleeps during the day, in a coffin, on top of a pile of other coffins. When Hutter accidentally cuts his finger, Orlok tries to suck the blood from the hand. The last straw is when Orlok looks at a photo of Hutter’s wife, and praises Helen’s “charming throat”, part of it on her boat to Wisburg to harass her and feast on the townspeople’s blood.

If this plot sounds familiar, it is because it is almost identical to the one in the novel by bram stoker, Dracula, with some minor changes. When Stoker’s widow, Florence, found out about the film, she tried to sue, but she realized that the production company of NosferatuPrana-Film, had no money left (he spent big to promote the film, rather than on the film itself).

After three days in court, a Berlin judge ruled that all copies of the film were to be destroyed.

The order was carried out in Germany, although copies of Nosferatu were already in the United States, where dracula was in the public domain.

Murnau died in a car accident in 1931, at the age of 42, and he didn’t live to see his movie become a classic cult following, with an acceleration in the film’s reputation in the 1960s, when the copyright of dracula they won all over the world and Nosferatu could be displayed anywhere.

disposable films

“With films from the silent era, it’s often hard to find even a few photos or newspaper clippings,” said Jon Robertson, a producer at Eureka Entertainment, the distributor that brought Nosferatu to theaters in Britain and Ireland this year.

Nosferatu, Murnau's film, turned 100 years old and was a source of inspiration for artists.  Photo: AFP

Nosferatu, Murnau’s film, turned 100 years old and was a source of inspiration for artists. Photo: AFP

“At that time, people watched movies as consumables. It was like today’s television broadcasts; they just made the movies and if no one wanted to see them, after a few months, they would throw them away.”

The version of the film that will be shown this year was restored by Luciano Berriatúa, a film director and historian who reconstituted it from surviving prints and he repaired them frame by frameusing automation and photo cleanup tools to remove jerky movements and scratches.

“The old films were printed with nitrate,” said Robertson. “It has a weird, shimmery sheen that can’t be replicated, thanks to how the chemicals react when light hits them. This adds beauty to Nosferatu”.

While the film set Murnau on the path to a career as an author in Hollywoodits producer, Albin Grau, also had a special role in creating the strong visual identity of Nosferatu.

A trained architect and practicing occultist, Grau was responsible for Orlok’s storyboard and costume designs, including the false teeth, ears and the characteristic clawsalong with the distinctive black sac.

Breaking away from portrayals of Dracula as an urbane sophisticate, Schreck the actor brought to life a new archetype: the vampire as outsider who represents fears of contagion and death.

From horror, Nosferatu became a cult film.  Photo: AFP

From horror, Nosferatu became a cult film. Photo: AFP

shot outdoors

While other German expressionist films of the time, such as Robert Wiene’s, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligarimade use of very fancy film sets, much of it Nosferatu it was shot outdoors, with photography inspired by Caspar David Friedrich’s seaside paintings.

The film drew inspiration from a number of artists; handwritten notes in the script refer to works of german romanticismwhile Grau’s set designs relate to the art of Francisco de Goya, Alfred Kubin, and Franz Sedlacek, and Hugo Steiner-Prog’s illustrations for the silent film Der Golem.

An exhibition at the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Ghosts of the Night: 100 Years of Nosferatuscheduled for December, will bring together works that inspired the film and that in turn, the film inspired, including posters designed by Grau.

Frank Schmidt, one of the show’s curators, said that immediately after its launch, Nosferatu began to inspire artistsin France, in particular.

“The surrealists discovered movies for themselves,” said Schmidt. “André Breton called the key scene the intertitle that comments on Hutter’s passage into the spirit realm.”

Mentioned in Breton’s 1928 book, Surrealism and Painting and in Communicating vessels, from 1932, the line in question “And when we had crossed the bridge, the ghosts came to meet him” appears in the final part of Hutter’s journey to Orlok Castle. It’s a threshold crossing made by a human instead of a vampire, signaling a change in narrative from reality to a world of nightmares.

In Nosferatu, music plays a key role.  Photo: AFP

In Nosferatu, music plays a key role. Photo: AFP

Another key, the music

Music is another part of survival Nosferatu. For a long time it was performed at concerts and nightclubsjust like in theaters, with the original by German composer Hans Erdmann remixed, reinterpreted or replaced.

Film score composer James Barnard created a new orchestral arrangement in 1995, and Berlin’s DJ Shed premiered a techno soundtrack of Nosferatu at the Berghain nightclub in 2013.

In May, Jozef van Wissem, the avant-garde Dutch composer and lute player known for his collaborations with film director Jim Jarmusch, will perform a live score at a screening of Nosferatu in a large church in Belfast (Northern Ireland).

Beginning with a lute solo, your performance will incorporate electric guitar and distorted recordings of extinct birds, moving from subtlety to gothic horror. “My soundtrack goes from silence to noise over 90 minutes,” he said, culminating in “dense, slow death metal.”

Nosferatu will have celebrations for its hundred years.  Photo: AFP

Nosferatu will have celebrations for its hundred years. Photo: AFP

Own Orlok has also been remixed and reinterpreted, with an army of equally pale, hairless, bloodsucking villains appearing in TV series and movies. Simon Bacon, a scholar in residence from Poznan, Poland, is the editor of a new book, Nosferatu in the 21st century. Published in August, it will trace the evolution of the Nosferatu legacy since the year 2000.

“It starts by looking at film adaptations, with examples ranging from art to science fiction to comedy,” Bacon said, listing the Master in Buffy the Vampire Slayerto the Angel of midnight mass from Netflix and Petyr, the older vampire from the comic series What we do in the shadowsamong the descendants of Orlok.

Bacon states that his book discusses “the ways in which the film can be read in terms of anxieties around contagion and mental illness, and ends by examining how different media have evolved the story: the music, the games, the filming techniques, and even the acting.”

For when the remake

An evolution of Nosferatubut not yet produced: Robert Eggers, director of the films The witch, The lighthouse Y north man, has been linked to a remake. Their plans were first announced in 2015, but were paused and re-announced several times.

In an interview, Eggers said that he still I wanted to do a remake of the movie, but could not say when it would go into production. “It would be a shame if it never got done, because I’ve spent a lot of time on it,” she said, “and came close to doing it more than once.”

Eggers first discovered Nosferatu when he was in elementary school in rural New Hampshire, he said. He remembers asking his parents to take him to a mall to ask for the movie on VHS, and having waited for a month for a grainy video to arrive.

Although it lacked the clarity of a remastered edition, the poor quality of the recording meant that Schreck’s performance as Orlok was even more sinisterEggers said.

“The video versions gave rise to the idea that Max Schreck was really a vampire,” he said, “but in the restored versions, you can see the bald spot and the grease paint.”

If his Nosferatu is finally realized, Eggers said he’d like to explore the defining elements of his story. “There are certain things that differentiate her from Draculawho can be identified as Nosferatu and not just Robert Eggers’ The Vampire,” he said.

FW Marnau, the director of Nosferatu has died at the age of 42.  Photo: AFP

FW Marnau, the director of Nosferatu has died at the age of 42. Photo: AFP

A story, then, that is based on a century of folklore and film history. “My approach is always to understand the period in which the film and the story takes place and to do it as believably as possible,” Eggers said.

“So what does it mean to be an undead earl living in the Carpathians? That’s my way in.”

Source: The New York Times

Translation: Patricia Sar


100 Years of Nosferatu: The Vampire Movie That Will Never Die