Hark, I hear the symphony of horrors calling and shuttling on a horse with it is a spindly man seeking a favourable review…well don’t fret Orlok because I have no bad words to write.
This masterpiece from 1922 paved the way for genre storytelling and of course lit the path for vampire movies. Frame after frame is filled with drawn out lengths and obscure angles to heighten the period Germany was going through at the time.
Based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula tale but with names changed as the studio couldn’t grab the rights. So instead of Harker we have salesman Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim), who gets sent to Transylvania to see a new client named Count Orlok (Max Schreck), once Hutter reads up on a vampire legend he begins to suspect his host isn’t just a strange man. Hutter rushes back home trying to stop Orlok who is after his wife Ellen (Greta Schroder), but is he too late to save her?
The oppressive imagery hands the film a bleak and horrifying look and that works nicely. The castle of Orlok is enough to see what a creepy location Hutter has landed himself in. There is plenty of stretched lines and abnormally sized objects to fit in with the German Expressionism of the time. It’s extremely arty as this style should be and it’s great looking into the most often statically shot scenes as you can see what is being played around with, such as the really tall chairs in Orlok’s dining room. Shadows and lighting are beautiful and surely the moment Orlok climbs the stairs to get to Ellen is a cinematic gem to remembered for ever, his hands and body casting shadows on the wall stirs up such tense feelings and makes him feel like a spirit too. ‘Nosferatu’ is splendidly filled with so many great visuals that can be seen with different meanings, as Hutter looks out at the building he’s sent to sell, the multiple windows really feel like a jail and the bars across his view make it seem like he’s trapped, which he is, he’s trapped into this transaction by Knock.
Yes, this film may not truly be a horror but for the lack of scares there’s a suitable amount of Gothic glean and haunting atmosphere. It is so influential for the world of film in the style of horror storytelling. A stylish silent film that I love and will probably always love. The story is simple but effective and the lack of score in some cases benefits the fear pent up inside you. Though one version I’ve since watched had a great musical backing track that worked really well with the majority of each scene, like a chorus of heavy metal angels chanting the arrival of the vampire to town.
A powerful performance from Max Schreck really makes you believe this terror exists. Schreck uses the Expressionism of the time and becomes Orlok, he has a lean spindly body and that works for this parasitic creature, his hands like spiders and arms stuck to his side create this constant vertical impression making him seem taller and therefore he looms over proceedings. Wangenheim over plays his part but again that was the way silent film had to work, no words meant facial expressions told everything, so his childish grins and stupid stares do more than enough to make him the fool not expecting a thing until it’s too late. Alexander Granach who plays Knock embodies this greedy squat pot-bellied creep with his manic gesticulations.
‘Nosferatu’ is a breakthrough for the early stages of film as art and director F.W Murnau concocted a symphony of delights within this silent feature. Imagery and performance work hand in hand to make this a great film to behold. Brilliant. Just brilliant, now I must be off before the sun rises.