Director: F. W. Murnau
Starring: Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schroeder, Alexander Granach
Words – Eleanor Smith
Nosferatu (1922), by German director F.W. Murnau, is a textbook example of the haunting beauty and mystery seen in classic, silent horror films.
This exceptional film has stood the test of time and as a result of its success, Nosferatu has paved the way for a century of horror films.
Modern audiences may not be left afraid after watching the film, but it’s difficult not to recognise the impact this film would have had on audiences upon its original release.
The enigma in Murnau’s storytelling makes Nosferatu a chilling figure, and our imagination makes events even more unnerving. Murnau’s technique of ambiguity would influence directors for decades across the 20th Century.
Even though based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula and sharing similarities to the story, such as the slaughter on the ship and the protagonist’s experience in the Count’s home – Nosferatu is an independant story in it’s own right.
Dracula films have a common denominator, of romanticising the Count – making him desirable for characters and audiences. Whereas for Nosferatu we are more repulsed by the character’s creepy appearance. Murnau’s constant intertwining of nature through the choice of cinematography – venus fly traps, spiders eating flies and a wolf roaming through the grass – reinforces the Count to be more of a pest in the night, rather than the sensual demon he’s so often portrayed as.
Yet, we still have a young naive girl, dressed in white, who is objectified as bait, in order to kill the monster. But, as this film was made nearly a century ago, we can look at future directors exploring the Dracula tale in adapting the female protagonist’s character to a less overused stereotype.
The film as a whole is beautiful, horror is explored from all angles. It has a certain magical element to it, that has captivated audiences since its release in 1922, and viewed today as a silent film adds to the menacing feel of Nosferatu’s character.
This film will always be a classic example of the mystery and enchanting beauty that the first horrors to appear on our screen had to offer.