Review of Nosferatu (1922)

Dir. FW Murnau, Starring: Max Schreck, Gustav Von Wangenheim, Greta Schroder
Currently on Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Horror Movies list

Nosferatu is a classic film from the German Expressionism era. Much like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, this film is silent and relies on sharp imagery to get its point across. This film is the first full-length feature made based on Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula. It follows Hutter (Von Wangenheim), a real estate agent who is based on Jonathan Harker, as he travels to Count Orlok’s (Schreck) castle in Transylvania. While away, he discovers Orlok’s secret identity as Nosferatu. Hutter’s wife, Ellen (Schroder), based on Mina, is plagued with dreams and visions of her beloved’s immediate danger.

As I’ve said, Nosferatu is classic. I don’t even really need to review it. It’s obviously a must watch if you’re a film buff. If not, though, I’d say you can skip right to the 1931 version of Dracula that I reviewed previously. For a non-film buff, this movie will be boring. It moves slowly with long periods of inactivity. The dialogue, written down, is cheesy and uninspired.

For the film buff, though, there are magnificent shots of landscape and very interesting uses of color and imagery. It’s an interesting study of the German Expressionist era, especially when compared to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, because it comes at the end of this period of film. While Cabinet had painted sets, Nosferatu has real, built sets. It’s much less severe looking than its predecessors, but no less creepy. They still utilize the sharp angles and the contrast of dark versus light, but it’s much less pronounced within the film itself.

This film also has iconic images used throughout the years. Everyone knows of Count Orlok’s slow and creepy entrance into Hutter’s room at night, before he sucks his blood. Also, the scene where Orlok is crouching over Ellen has been made and remade in every Dracula movie or TV show ever created. That’s the shot that everyone thinks of when they hear the word “Vampire.”

I have mixed feelings about Nosferatu, personally. It’s fascinating to see the progression of the history of film, but, watching as a person from the modern era, the movie ran too long for me. I found myself bored by Act 4 and almost completely disinterested by Act 5. This can be chalked up to many factors, however, other than the film itself. Among those factors are the fact that I more recently watched Dracula (1931), which has a nearly identical plot, and because I knew the ending.

Despite my personal feelings about this film, I suggest you see it. Not only will it help to give you a better understanding of the film industry, but you’ll also gain a more thorough knowledge about the evolution of the horror movie. Anyone interested in film needs to see Nosferatu. Next on my list: Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979).

Let us know what your thoughts are about this movie in the comments!


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