By on October 25th, 2013

Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922) Dir. F.W. Murnau – QFT Belfast from October 27th

Who’s in it? Max Schreck, Greta Schröder, Ruth Landshoff

What’s it about? The original horror movie, Nosferatu pre-dates most of the genre conventions Hollywood has since made its own, supplying the inspiration for countless scary movies and retaining its uncanny ability to unsettle audiences with the pervasive power of its low key expressionism. Nosferatu is still impressive today, operating within an auditory vacuum relying entirely on shadowy Chirascuro lighting and Schreck’s mesmeric performance, his creeping intensity impregnating the heavy silence with expectant fear.

Memorable Moments? Most Memorable for the ghostly figure of Schreck creeping ghoul-like through a dark house to the bedroom of his unsuspecting victim; his long, probing shadow announcing his predatory presence as we hold our breath, at one point jerking unexpectedly at the camera and fixing us with a stare that sends a shiver down the spine.

Look who’s talking: ‘Less frightening than haunting, Murnau’s film conjures a persistent atmosphere of dread and decay, thanks in part to Max Schreck’s immortal performance as Orlok.’- Dennis Lim, L.A. Times

Like that? Try this: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) is another iconic example of German Expressionist cinema and arguably even more ghoulish and unnerving than the more fantastical Nosferatu, focusing instead on the story of shady Somnambulist Dr Caligari who hypnotises an innocent village hand, using him to carry out a sinister plot. Unsettling as much for its themes as its shadowy exposition, Caligari was pre-emptive of modern media fascination with the mystery of evil in human society.

Trivia Pursuit: Nosferatu was the first big screen adaptation (though unauthorised) of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and brought the character to life like no other film before or since. The one and only production of Prana Film, the studio was unable to obtain the rights to Stoker’s novel and so was forced to change key details of the plot, count Dracula becoming count Orlock.

This feature was originally published in The Belfast Telegraph 25th October 2013

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