When watching silents, it is sometimes hard to seperate a film from its legend. Nosferatu is a film that comes with a lot of baggage. Based on the Dracula story and in fact one of the first vampires to be committed to cellioud, this is considered to be Murnau’s masterpiece. This film got him attention world wide and eventually earned him the right to make big budget silents like Faust and Sunrise. It starred a man who was as weird in real life as he was on the screen. This film inspired so many other films and film movements including most horror films you can think of. How am I to say anything bad about it?
Well actually it is pretty hard to say anything bad about Nosferatu. Max Schrek is lit so well and his costume is complete that he doesn’t need to speak in order to be frightening. Murnau also took out the annoyingly slow parts in the original novel, shrinking the runtime down and making this film actually flow and breath. (unlike that horrible novel. (Seriously, don’t ever read the novel. Bram Stoker was not a good writer or really a writer at all…) He also changed the ending and therefore made vampire history by implying that vampires get killed by sunlight. Let’s just think what it would have been like to never see an irresitable vampire turn into dust or shrivel up… We would have no real way to kill vampires without having to wittle sticks and that would have been lame.
My favorite scene and the scene that sort of stays with the viewer most after the film is over is the ship scene. This is where one of the famous pictures of Nosferatu comes from. He stares down at you from the deck with his hands all out to potentially kill you. I also think that the concept is scary. Knowing that your friends and shipmates are getting killed and there is no one to save you because you are out in the middle of the ocean. All you can do is wait until it is your turn. You know that it is coming from a certain box, but you don’t know what it is or how to stop it. Ugh. That would suck.
I think this is a masterpiece, plain and simple. If you are interested in the history of vampires, I would suggest buying this film and studying it.