Monday, March 14, 2011

Weeks Too Late: Nosferatu

Nosferatu. Directed by F.W. Murnau & Sort of Written by Henrik Galeen.

: That's right, we're back at writing a dual review, though this time it's going to be this film and the comic version of it (that's bound to be a winner, right?). Look forward to Doomwench's obvious enjoyment of the comic on Saturday.

Preconceptions: Yes, Doomwench is presenting insight on this film for her Masters. No, I'm not sure what I'm doing reviewing it instead. Yes, I'm afraid that she'll judge me (and hit me) for my review. Also: Her suggesting we break up the work this way may be a trap. That gets the most obvious questions out of the way. I haven't seen Nosferatu since I was a 17 year old film snob trying to earn extra elitist credit, without really knowing what I was doing. I was looking forward to seeing it again with my much more sophisticated eye (I was not looking forward to doing so knowing Doomwench would be standing by with a table of torture devices if I crossed her).

General Review
: Okay to be clear, this is a silent, black and white movie from 1922. If that sort of thing puts you
to sleep, Nosferatu isn't going to be the exception. Don't come knocking at my door with your complaints. This was filmed in a time when they were just inventing film pacing, so it isn't the glorious attention seeker that something like Crank is. If you're going to check this out on my say so, remember, you've been warned. Also, if you want the Nosferatu experience without seeing Nosferatu, there is always the excellent Shadow of the Vampire (oh and Herzog's 1979 version, which has both colour and sound and the awesome Klaus Kinski).

I hardly think I'm being controversial when I say that the best thing about this movie, besides being an interesting and great thesis topic (please don't hurt me), is Max Schreck. His performance would be great in a movie today, but it stands out even further given the over-the-top, vaudeville style performances that I've come to expect from old movies. Nosferatu isn't exempt from these, but let me go on and on about Schreck fo
r a moment more before getting into that. His stiff, looming presence remains pretty scary even with my easily bored (and yet superior) modern brain. Also: his make up was fairly simple but looked natural and very creepy.

It wasn't all disquieting acting and cool make up, however. My biggest complaint (aside from how long the title cards were held, it's okay movie, I can read) is Alexander Granach. He played Knock, the Renfield of the piece. His over the top capering belonged on the 70's Batman, at best. More than the silence and title cards, more than anything, his crouching, unsubtle performance took me out of the moment. And given the excellence of Schreck's make-up, his is surprisingly bad. Granach's scenes padded out the movie and it would have been better for just cutting them entirely.

Nosferatu didn't have the scope that a lot of the other silent films I've been watching have. The scene at the graveyard/beach (you heard me) was beautifully composed, but we didn't get much grandeur. There was a lot of talking in rooms for it having no sound. The special effects were impressive for the time (I particularly liked Orlock moving his crates of dirt at super speed).

I've been watching a lot of the silent film greats lately (much to the boredom of my husband) and a lot of them hold up surprising
ly well under modern scrutiny. Nosferatu is a pretty movie, but it isn't as pretty as the Holy Mountain. Schreck's performance is noteworthy, but there is a lot of generic, wooden silent film acting. I liked seeing Nosferatu for its important place in film (and vampire) history, the resounding impact it's had on movies now. It's easy to enjoy on those merits. However, as just a film, I fear that it's just starting to get too out of date for a regular, intelligent nerd audience.

.....and now to wait for the axe to fall....

: Finally, there were a lot more half naked men in it than I remembered. Which is to say, any.

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