My exposure to silent films is decidedly limited. I know I have at least one more on my 100 Movies list so I’ll get to see another one sometime in the near future. That said, “Nosferatu” is a movie you really have to see to appreciate. It was released just a little over two decades after Bram Stoker published Dracula in 1897. The film was first released in Germany in 1922 and received a release in the U.S. in 1929. The movie was based on the novel Dracula but changes the names of characters and some events. The makers of the film were ultimately sued by the estate of Bram Stoker for lifting the story from his novel without permission. Today”Nosferatu” is regarded as one of the greatest of vampire stories and as being instrumental in establishing a key fixture of vampire lore (physical harm from sunlight). Now, is this film deserving of all the accolades it has received over the years? Read on!
Should this film be considered a classic? It most definitely should be. I probably watched a terrible transfer of the film since I watched the streaming version of it on Netflix. It was complete with a rather hokey score that sounded like something out of an early 80s horror movie. I hope to watch this again at some point on the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray release because I’m sure it is a much better transfer and treatment of the film. That said, this film is deserving of all the accolades it has received over the years. Not only is it one of the foundational vampire stories, it is also down right creepy. These are not your mom’s or sister’s “Twilight” vampires. Nosferatu is a terrifying creature that kills without remorse or romance. Even without dialog, the images on the screen are disturbing and carry with them a building sense of foreboding right up until the end of the movie. The idea that the vampire brings rats with him that are carriers of the plague make his presence even more sinister as the movie progresses. Since there is no dialog, it is easy to walk away from the screen for a few moments, but resist the urge to do so. With a silent film it is vitally important that the viewer see every image and expository slide on the screen. F. W. Murnau did outstanding work from the director’s chair in the movie. His incredible work, along with the screen play from Henrik Galeen, created a film that remains mysterious and disturbing almost a century after it was made. If that doesn’t make a film a classic, I don’t know what does.
Would I own this film? I think I might like to if I can get the Criterion Blu-Ray. This film needs to be seen with the best transfer possible since it relies solely on images to tell the story. I would love to show this movie to people obsessed with “Twilight” so that they can see just how far vampires have fallen from the incredibly terrifying and demonic creatures they were thought of in the early days of popular vampire lore. If you are a fan of fine cinema this film should be on your short list. Not only is it a fine example of German films of the time, it is a well crafted movie that still disturbs nearly a century later.
By the way, since this film is in the public domain, you can watch the entire thing on YouTube!