Tuesday, August 01, 2006



Dir: F.W. Murnau (Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde; The Haunter Castle; Faust)

Celebrated silent adaption of the Dracula story, Nosferatu suffers in my mind from my own inability to really get behind silent movies. I fell bad about it, I know it is a product of my limits as a moviewatcher, but I don't find them enjoyable. Nosferatu is right up there with the best I have seen, though. It has enough interesting imagery to strike the viewer, and my familiarity with the story allows me to slog through the silly non-Vampire moments. But as a whole, this and all other silent films is just too distant, too ancient for me to connect with. It is like seeing some ancient relic in a museum; you appreciate the craft, you recognize how novel it was, but it is clearly a product of another, by-gone era.

Those visuals do indeed hit the spot. Max Schreck, or his make-up at least, is so creepy that one wonders why nine years later they made Bela Lugosi bat like. The rat motif is more effective, and I think more resonant with the disgusting qualities of the Count. Monsters tap into our base fears, and I think that plague carrying vermin may be a deeper mine to excavate. His minion, Knock, is also fun, sort of a demonic Tweedle-Dum.

Everything not involved with the supernatural, though, maybe is good but beyond my ability to critique fairly. Nosferatu is not a brilliant movie, but does contain brilliant images, shots, moods, and impressions.

The score, redone by some weird new-age virbraphone orchestra, is unlistenable. We turned it off and put the Requiem by Brahms on instead. That is one of the good things about silent films; you can talk over them, or put on Duran Duran or whatever, and not mar the aesthetic experience. Talking through it might actually help you finish it.

This isn't an irrational prejudice. It is a flaw of taste. I know it is my own fault. But I don't think I can recommend Nosferatu.



Blogger Jeremy noted on 8/04/2006 12:58:00 AM that...

Nosferatu's one of the handful of silent films that I genuinely respond to instead of simply admire for its technical achievements. The image of Nosferatu standing in the doorway has been creeping me out since I was in 3rd grade. Like you mentioned, Max Schrek's make-up is still very contemporarily effective.

Have you seen The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari? For what it's worth, I'd consider it more accessible, especially visually.  

Blogger paroske noted on 8/04/2006 05:53:00 PM that...

I never saw it. But I need to break my bad attitude toward silent films. So i will.