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Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens

A promotional film poster for Nosferatu
Directed by F. W. Murnau
Produced by Enrico Dieckmann
Albin Grau
Written by Bram Stoker
Henrik Galeen
Starring Max Schreck
Gustav von Wangenheim
Sam Loughrey
Greta Schröder
Alexander Granach
Georg H. Schnell
Ruth Landshoff
John Gottowt
Max Nemetz
Wolfgang Heinz
Albert Vehnor
Heinrich Witte
Guido Herzfeld
Karl Etlinger
Fanny Schreck
Hardy von Francois
Gustav Botz
Cinematography Fritz Arno Wagner
Günther Krampf
Distributed by Film Arts Guild
Release date(s) Germany 4 March 1922
USA 3 June 1929
Running time 94 min.
Country Germany
Language Silent film
German intertitles

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror or simply Nosferatu) is a German Expressionist vampire horror film, directed by F. W. Murnau, starring Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok. The film, shot in 1921 and released in 1922, was in essence an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to the novel (for instance, "vampire" became "Nosferatu" and "Count Dracula" became "Count Orlok").


[edit] Plot

Thomas Hutter (Jonathan Harker in Stoker's novel) is an employee at a real estate firm in a fictitious German city called Wisborg (the name of the town being a reference to the actual town Wismar), living with Ellen, his wife. His employer, Knock, receives a mysterious letter. Knock decides to send him to visit Count Orlok in the Carpathian Mountains to finalize the sale of a house. Hutter leaves his wife with his good friend Harding, and Harding's sister Ruth, before embarking on his multiple-month journey.

Close to his final destination, Hutter boards at an inn, where the locals become frightened at the mere mention of Orlok's name, and discourage him from traveling to his castle during the night. In his room at the inn, Hutter finds a book The Book of the Vampires, which he disregards before falling asleep.

Hutter is left to finish his journey on foot after his hired driver refuses to pass the bridge to the castle. However, he is soon picked up by Count Orlok's coach, which is driven by a strange specter that hides its face, and moves at an unnatural speed. At his arrival at the castle, whose doors open by themselves, he is welcomed by Count Orlok. His grotesque facial features hidden at this stage by his hat, Orlok initially appears to be a mere eccentric gentleman. Hutter has dinner at the castle; Orlok refuses to eat and silently reads a letter. A bell rings at midnight and a startled Hutter cuts his thumb. Count Orlok tries to suck the blood out of the wound, but stops at Hutter's horror, who then falls asleep in the parlor after a conversation with Orlok.

Hutter wakes up to an empty castle with fresh wounds on his neck, which he attributes to mosquitoes. That night he is joined by Orlok and they sign the documents for the sale of the house facing Hutter's. Hutter finds The Book of the Vampires in his luggage and starts to suspect that Orlok is nosferatu. He tries to hide in his bedroom as midnight approaches. However, the closed door opens by itself and Orlok comes in, his true nature revealed. At the same time, Ellen sleepwalks and is found by Harding in a comatose state, screaming for Hutter. Her screams stop Orlok, who leaves Hutter untouched.

Waking up, Hutter explores the castle and its crypt. He finds a coffin, where Orlok is resting in a dormant state. Paralyzed with fear and the sheer sight of the nosferatu, he dashes back to his room, where he witnesses Orlok piling up coffins on a coach and climbing into the last one before the coach leaves. Hutter escapes the castle through the window, but is knocked unconscious when he falls and hits the ground. Meanwhile, the coffins are shipped down a river on a raft.

Next, Hutter is at a hospital after his flight from the castle. The coffins are put into a large boat, after the crew sees that they are full of soil and rats.

In a psychiatric ward, Knock is in a confinement cell where he eats flies and tries to bite the neck of his doctor. Hutter decides to leave the hospital to warn his town against Orlok. In his cell, Knock steals a newspaper with news of a new plague, which causes him to rejoice. The sailors on the boat carrying the coffins get sick, and soon all but two are dead. One of them decides to destroy the coffins, which are now crawling with rats. However, Orlok wakes up and confronted with this vision, the sailor jumps into the sea. The captain ties himself to his ship's wheel. Orlok is the new master of the boat.

The ship arrives in Wisborg. Orlok leaves the ship unseen in one of his coffins, quickly followed by the rats. He moves into the house he purchased across the street from Hutter's house. Knock escapes from his cell. Hutter also arrives in Germany. The next morning, the ship is inspected and it appears empty, except for the dead captain with wound marks on his neck. The logbook of the ship is found, the doctors realize they are dealing with plague. The town is stricken with panic. Ellen reads the book of vampires, despite Hutter's forbidding. She learns how to kill a vampire: a woman pure in heart must make him forget the rooster's first crowing. The town is flooded with corpses and its people chase Knock, mistaking him for a vampire.

Orlok stares from his window at the sleeping Ellen. She opens her window to invite him in but faints. As Hutter leaves to get help, Orlok comes in. He drinks her blood and forgets about the dawning day. A rooster crows and Orlok goes up in smoke as he tries to escape. The last image of the movie is Orlok's castle in the Carpathian Mountains.

[edit] Cast

[edit] Origin and publication history

[edit] Screenplay and pre-production

Nosferatu was the first and only production of Prana Film, founded in 1921 by Enrico Dieckmann and Albin Grau.[1] Grau had the idea to shoot a vampire film; the inspiration arose from Grau's war experience: in winter 1916 a Serbian farmer told him that his father was a vampire and an Undead. [2]

Diekmann and Grau gave Henrik Galeen the task to write a screenplay inspired from Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, despite Prana-Film not having obtained the film-rights. Galeen was an experienced specialist in Dark romanticism; he had already worked on Der Student von Prag (The Student of Prague) in 1913, and the screenplay for Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came into the World) (1920).[1] Galeen set the story in a fictional north German harbour town named Wisborg and changed the character names. He added the idea of the vampire bringing the plague to Wisborg, via rats on the ship. He left out the Van Helsing vampire hunter character. Galeen's screenplay was poetically rhythmic, without being so dismembered as other books influenced by literary Expressionism, such as those by Carl Mayer. Lotte Eisner described Galeen's screenplay as "voll Poesie, voll Rhythmus" ("full of poetry, full of rhythm").[3]

[edit] Production

Hutter's departure from Wisborg was filmed in Heiligen-Geist-Kirche's yard in Wismar; this photograph is from 1970.

Filming began in July 1921 with exterior shots in Wismar. A take from Marienkirche's tower over Wismar market place with the Wasserkunst Wismar served as the Establishing Shot for the Wisborg scene. Further locations were the Wassertor, the Heiligen-Geist-Kirche yard and the harbour. In Lübeck the abandoned Salzspeicher served as Nosferatu's new Wisborg house. Further exterior shots followed in Lauenburg, Rostock and on Sylt.[1] The film team travelled to the Carpathian Mountains where Orava Castle served as backdrop for Orolok's half-ruined castle. Nearby locations also served: Hutter's stay at Dolný Kubín; the river journey with the coffins filmed on the river Váh; and the panoramas of the High Tatras mountain range. The team filmed interior shots at the JOFA studio in Berlin's Johannisthal commune, and further exteriors in the Tegel forest.[1]

For cost reasons cameraman Fritz Arno Wagner only had one camera available, and therefore there was only one original negative.[4]

[edit] Deviations from the novel

This Lübecker Salzspeicher served as the film-set for Orlok's house in Wisborg

The story of Nosferatu is similar to that of Dracula and retains the core characters—Jonathan and Mina Harker, the Count, etc.—but omits many of the secondary players, such as Arthur and Quincey, and changes all of the character's names (although in some recent releases of this film, which is now in the public domain in the United States but not in most European states, the written dialog screens have been changed to use the Dracula versions of the names). The setting has been transferred from England in the 1890s to Germany in 1838.

A caricature of Nosferatu by Jean Noël Lafargue

In contrast to Dracula, Orlok does not make any other vampires but kills his victims, causing the town folk to blame the plague, which ravages the city. Also, Orlok must sleep by day, as sunlight would kill him. The ending is also substantially different from that of Dracula. The Count is ultimately destroyed at sunrise when the "Mina" character sacrifices herself to him. The town called "Wisborg" in the film is in fact a mix of Wismar and Lübeck.[5] Parts of the film depicting Transylvania were also filmed in Slovakia. Nosferatu's castle, for instance, is Orava Castle in northern Slovakia, and other locations are in the High Tatras and on the Váh River around Strečno Castle.

[edit] Influences

Max Schreck as Count Orlok

This was the first and last Prana Film; the company declared bankruptcy after Bram Stoker's estate, acting for his widow, Florence Stoker, sued for copyright infringement and won. The court ordered all existing prints of Nosferatu destroyed, but copies of the film had already been distributed around the world. These prints were then copied over the years, helping Nosferatu gain its current reputation as one of the greatest movie adaptations of the vampire legend.

With the influence of producer and production designer Albin Grau, the film established one of two main depictions of film vampires. The "Nosferatu-type" is a living corpse with rodent features (especially elongated fingernails and incisors), associated with rats and plague, and neither charming nor erotic but rather totally repugnant. The victims usually die and are not turned into vampires themselves. The more common archetype is the "Dracula-type" (established by Bela Lugosi's version of Dracula and perpetuated by Christopher Lee), a charming aristocrat adept at seduction and whose bite turns his victims into new vampires.

A more universal effect of the film is less obvious: the ending of Nosferatu single-handedly created the concept that vampires can be physically harmed by sunlight. While this was a common element of many other mythical creatures, pre-Nosferatu vampires disliked but could endure daylight (for instance, a part in the original Dracula novel shows its Count in a London street by day). Since Nosferatu's release, the vampire legends have quickly incorporated the idea of fearing, or being destroyed by, the sun.

Murnau's Nosferatu is in the public domain in the United States but not in Germany, and copies of the movie are widely available on video (usually as poorly transferred, faded, scratched video copies that are often scorned by enthusiasts). However, pristine restored editions of the film have also been made available, and are also readily accessible to the public. The only complete, original copy is said to be owned by the German Max Schreck collector Jens Geutebrück.

The movie has received not only a strong cult following, but also has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, including being cited as the best of all the adaptations of Dracula. It currently holds a 98 percent "fresh" rating on

[edit] Derivative works

  • 1922 – Aaron Copland's ballet Grohg (un-published and un-premiered until 1992) used Nosferatu as the physical model for the lead character, and roughly follows the storyline.
  • 1979 – Werner Herzog's 1979 homage to Nosferatu, starring Klaus Kinski which in this film the vampire is known as Count Dracula and not Count Orlok. The film is called Nosferatu the Vampyre.
  • 1988 – A sequel to Werner Herzog's Nosferatu called Nosferatu in Venice. Starring Klaus Kinski as Nosferatu and Christopher Plummer as Paris Catalano.
  • 1998 - Wayne Keeley wrote an directed a version called Nosferatu: The First Vampire that saw the original film remastered to a soundtrack by Type O Negative and hosted by David Carradine.
  • 2000 – A Hollywood movie called Shadow of the Vampire told a secret history of the making of Nosferatu, imagining that actor Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe) was actually a genuine vampire, and that director F. W. Murnau (John Malkovich) was complicit in hiring the creature for the purposes of realism.

[edit] Kino DVD Edition

In 2007, Kino International released Nosferatu: The Ultimate Edition, derived from a new high-definition transfer of the film. This double-disc collection presents the film with the original German intertitles as well as with newly-translated English intertitles. Accompanying the film is a 52-minute documentary by Luciano Berriatúa which provides a detailed account of the production and explores the filmmakers' involvement in the occult.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b c d Editors of German Wikipedia: [1]
  2. ^ Christiane Mückenberger; Günther Dahlke; Günter Karl (Hrsg.) (1993), "Nosferatu" (in German), Deutsche Spielfilme von den Anfängen bis 1933, Berlin: Henschel Verlag, pp. 71, ISBN 3-89487-009-5 
  3. ^ Eisner 1967, page 27
  4. ^ Prinzler page 222: Luciano Berriatúa and Camille Blot in section: Zur Überlieferung der Filme. Then it was usual to use at least two cameras in parallel to maximise the number of copies for distribution. One negative would serve for local use and another for foreign distribution.
  5. ^ Ashbury, Roy (2001-11-05). Nosferatu (1st ed.). Pearson Education. pp. 41. 

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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