Showing posts with label Nosferatu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nosferatu. Show all posts

18 November 2013

Master Of Expressionism - F.W Murnau

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F.W Murnau along with Fritz Lang were THE German Expressionist filmmakers of the 1920s. Murnau made such films as Nosferatu, Faust and later in the United States Sunrise. His films often at considered some of the finest ever made.

Murnau was born Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe in 1888. Not surprisingly he started in theatre but he was also a devout student of art history and literature. Murnau joined the airforce and survived 8 crashes. He was interned in Switzerland but he actually won an award for a play he staged in interment camp. It’s commonly believed Murnau was gay and his first true love was killed during World War 1 and this had a serious psychological impact on the young Murnau.

After the war finishes he quickly starts a film company with Conrad Veidt (Cesare in Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). They made quite a few films together but sadly not uncommon with silent films almost all of those are lost and most sadly their version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It was an unauthorized adaptation but no legal action was taken unlike the case of Nosferatu.

During the first half of the 1920s he could average about 3 films a year. The earliest surviving film of Murnau’s is Journey into the Night and the surviving prints were only found this year. The first film of his which is widely available in Schloß Vogelöd that is rather spooky chamber drama with mystery elements. Murnau followed it with Marizza (only a fragment remains) and The Burning Spoil, which Eric Rohmer assisted in its restoration, but there is no home video release sadly.

Nosferatu is unarguably his most well known film and possibly his masterpiece, even though the case has been made for the later Sunrise. The production of Nosferatu is almost as interesting as the film itself; so much so a largely fictionalised take on it was made as Shadow of the Vampire. It’s the only and one film made by Prana film that was created by Enrico Dieckmann and occultist Albin Grau who was also a member of Fraternitas Saturni, a magical order in German.

Prana film was meant to specialize in occult theme films but due to the lawsuit that Bram Stoker’s wife filed due to the unauthorized adaption of Dracula it went bankrupt. Nosferatu in many ways is not a Murnau film because it was very much Albin Grau’s baby. The idea of doing a vampire film came out of his war experience of hearing a Serbian farmer telling him how his father was a vampire.

Nosferatu came out to relatively lukewarm reviews. The French surrealists really loved the film so much so that in one of André Breton’s books he recites a dream he had of a neck tie that became the likeness of Nosferatu and the intertitle “We he crossed the bridge, the phantom came to greet him” inspired him greatly. Nosferatu has probably inspired more people than any other silent film from everyone from Werner Herzog with his wonderful re-imagining to Abel Ferrara’s vampire film The Addiction.

The film was basically pulled from circulation due to Bram Stoker’s widow suing the filmmakers for the unauthorized adapted of his husband’s novel and won. The filmmakers were forced burn all the negatives but luckily one got all the way to the United States. The many prints over the years were made from this single negative even though they vary in many lengths. The film could have easily been lost like many of Murnau’s other films and has since become one of the most consistently screened silent films.

Phantom was Murnau’s follow up to Nosferatu, which is a very dreamy film that is about a young man who becomes obsessed with this girl and will do anything to find her again. It was considered lost for many years but it was found and restored and eventually came out on dvd by Eureka. Muranu’s next key film is The Last Laugh that is one of his chamber dramas and interestingly enough has barely any intertitles and no intertitles that are dialogue. It was a big success and he was able to Tartuffe and Faust both were made with a much larger budget.

Faust is obviously the old German tale of Faust who sells his soul to the devil. Faust is a special effects spectacular in the vein of Metropolis due to its scale at times. Universum Film AG put Faust into production and until Metropolis the year after was it’s biggest budget film. It’s by far his 2nd most widely seen German silent after Nosferatu. It’s remains one of the finest adaptations of Faust to date and is still a truly stunning film to watch today.

Murnau was already shooting his next film Sunrise in the United States for 20th Century Fox when Faust premiered in Germany. Many critics consider Sunrise his crowning achievement it’s a German expressionist film by a Hollywood Studio and is a beautiful love story. It would later win the “Unique and Artistic Production” at the first Academy Awards which was kind of like the equivalent to best film today. He continued making more films in America till he died tragically of complications because of a car crash. It was a week before his final film Tabu.

Murnau to this day remains one of the most innovative directors in the history of film. Nosferatu and Sunrise will be what he is remembered for but there are plenty of other great German expressionist films he made in the 20s. We can all hope some of his lost films get found some day. Eureka under their masters of Cinema imprint has released the majority of his available German and American films including a beautifully restored blu-ray of his Gothic masterpiece Nosferatu.

Ian Schultz

Nosferatu is now available in a new fully restored version available Monday 25th November on [Blu-ray]and [DVD]. Read our recent cinema release review.

19 October 2013

Nosferatu (1922) Masters Of Cinema Review

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Release Date:
25th October 2013 (UK Cinema)
Eureka! Video, BFI
F.W. Murnau
Max Schreck, Greta Schröder, Ruth Landshoff

It's easy to call yourself a film fan or even a cinephile but when you dig a little deeper to find out why they call themselves fans its then you truly find out how much of a fan you really are. Film is one of the most culturally diverse art forms ever created, true cinephiles will appreciate it in all it's forms including Silent Film. With Halloween creeping up on us what better time to (re-)release of the most iconic horror  films in cinematic history getting a rare appearance on the big screen, F.W Murnau's Nosferatu (1922).

Whilst Bela Lugosi then Hammer Films romanticized that many of us perceive Dracula to be, the reclusive black cloaked fanged count  who has women falling at his feet ,under his hypnotic spell, Murnau's masterpiece is film's earliest adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel seen on the big screen.

Set in post world war one Germany, Nosferatu sees Knock (Alexander Grauach) a estate agent and his assistant Hutter (Gustav Von Nagenheim) go on assignment deep into the mysterious Carpathian Hills in heart of Transylvania. They arrive at Count Orlock's castle (Max Schreck)to broker the sale of Orlock home back in Germany but as the days fly past Hutter starts to notice unusual things start to happen he reverts back to the book he is reading Orlock might actually be a vampire. As the horror of realization sinks into Hutter he discover Orlock has escaped his castle back to Germany amongst a shipment of coffins leaving a trail of death in his wake forcing Hutter to Hunt the parasitic killer before a veil of death destroys his hometown.

To be screened part of BFI's Gothic The Dark Heart Of Film,Nosferatu deserves its rightful place next to modern horror, frankly because of its superior quality. The film might be 9 years short of been 100 years old some may call it outdated, cliched but in reality this film's craftmanship, technical ability are second to none. This film is essential viewing for any wanna be horror filmmaker though scare factor maybe non-existent but the visual power and atmosphere stands up against any modern horror film making one of the best with the genre (possibly best within Vampire sub genre). The shadowy silhouettes, male leads exact doubles of each other, broody Gothic horror in its prime but most of all make up the symbolic German Expressionism.

If there's any case for the importance of music within a feature film, the silent film era will act as your best case to support your argument. Nowdays it seem many bands fight to get a hip points however like when you talk about football matches the crowd been the '12th Man' the score is that '12th Man' providing the heartbeat of the audience delivering an extra dimension of fear, tension. Even with a modern score Nosferatu never loses it's power still delivers the platform for Max Schreck to deliver the ultimate legendary performance as Count Orlock.

Schreck's portrayal of Orlock was delivered with such conviction, terrifying passion by an actor who actually believed he was a  vampire. There is no comparisons from any other  actor coming close to matching Schreck,but the closest comparsions could possibly be seen in two  more recent films, the highly underrated Shadow Of The Vampire (2000) and Werner Herzog's Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979) with Klaus Kinski.

So why has Stoker's legendary creature of the night always been romantized rather been a predatory monester, one a argument comes from film historians with the possibe connections with Nazism. Whilst the film was created well before the rise of the Nazis Nosferatu is believed by some to be an account based around the Weimar Republic. A state within Post World War One Germany born out off corruption, anti antisemitism delivering the National Socialist Party  but it's the visual attributes of Orlock that could be seen as the most terrifying. The Nazis looked to have hijacked Murnau's vision for how they symbolized the Jewish people as rat like creatures for their propaganda films. If anything the main argument could all be down to Bram Stoer's widow taking the German auteur to court for breach of copyright despite the change to the novel

Whatever your think about Nosferatu, it may not feel part of modern romantic vision of the vampire but it has it's rightful place in horror folklore. When you look back at the story of how Murnau's masterpiece was created it makes you wonder did  he know something we didn't know when he kept that single copy despite the court order to destroy all copies. Though sometimes if he had a time machine he may have thought twice about destroying the remaining if he knew that Twilight Saga lay ahead?! Whatever you think or how many versions of the film you may have on DVD or Blu-Ray  F.W Murnau's Nosferatu was made for one thing, that's the big screen, don't miss a piece of cinematic gold getting a rare run on the big screen.


Paul Devine