Nosferatu (1922) Review 

Today we move on from the Evil Dead franchise and into a piece of not only horror history, but also the history of film itself. Today I decided to watch Nosferatu, one of the oldest horror movies out there and also one of the most iconic horror movies of all time. Nosferatu is a German Expressionist horror film directed by F.W. Murnau, and stars Max Schrek as Count Orlock. Nosferatu is an unlicensed adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. The filmmakers did change a few aspect of the film to avoid copyright issues as they didn’t have the rights to the novel. Some changed aspects are the names, the look of the titular vampire, his abilities, the setting, and the ending. The changes help set it a lot apart from the base material, as well as to keep it shorter to keep it within limitations of the time. The characters work for the movie and are effective in their roles. Performance wise we can’t judge the film from our modern views and understandings of acting. This is a silent movie from the 1920s, which means they were under a lot of limitations in the way they can communicate everything to the audience. Due to that, the acting is more like stage acting, in that they have to play the motions and emotions a lot bigger than modern film actors, or even sound actors from the next decade would. The one that does stand out though is Schrek as Count Orlock. He’s pretty understated and creepy in the role. This is an example where being a silent black&white film really helps the feeling of the film. Everything of it comes together to help create this sense of despair and creepiness that is terrifying in its own way. The use of him rising out of the coffin, or the stares he gives, or the use of shadows to show his affect on a person works incredibly to the tone of the film. Its also those moments where the expressionism of the film comes into play for me. Being that it’s a silent film we can’t really talk about the dialogue as they can only really be really important moments because they have to use it in title cards. There’s only a certain amount of title cards you can use before affecting the flow of the film. Especially when you have to balance the dialogue cards with the act cards and the narrator/journal cards that show up. Although those  can also be because of the issues with the nature of the age of the film. Its a silent film that is now 100 years old there was  a point in time where it was lost, and has lost parts of it. It’s been remastered and re-edited with new titles and new music, but it still has an effect on the film since it’s not the original stuff from the film. Over the years there have been a number of restorations of the film, each with different tinting, titles and music. The version I watched is, or was, it is supposedly leaving Shudder’s Prime Video channel on the 31st, from 2006. With the film now being in the public domain (even though it’s always kind of been treated that way) there’s probably going to be a lot more ways to watch it. Though those versions might also be copyrighted. I’m not actually sure though, as would a restoration be counted like a recording of a piece of music in the public domain. I’ll have to look into that. The music chosen for this version is ok, fits a lot of the scenes but can take you out a bit. Though that is an issue I’ve had with some other silent films having a score that doesn’t fit. The changes don’t exactly ruin it for me anyways, it’s just a thing you have to accept with watching these films.  Another thing you have to accept, is that these are not films that you can put on in the background. You have to pay attention and watch it to understand and get the full experience. Over-all this is a historically important film that is still worth watching. Whether for the historical aspect  of seeing life from 100 years ago, it’s impact on film history, or even because you just like watching silent movies. Its the origin of a lot of iconic and legendary imagery and it’s important to see the origin. Although it’s an ask to get people to watch it outside of a film studies context. Still though, I give it two-thumbs up !!


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