on April 29, 2004
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht directed by Werner Herzog, is really a color remake of the 1922 film Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens directed by F.W. Murnau. There are a couple of name changes: Count Orlok became Count Dracula; Jonathan's fiancée Nina became Jonathan's wife Lucy. The original film was silent and in black and white, where the 1979 version is in color and is in German with English subtitles.
However the plot is close to Bram Stoker's book on Count Dracula which has a very similar plot line and story. F.W. Murnau bought the movie rights to the film; however these rights were owned by Bram's widow Florence and she refused to allow the use of the name and storyline. Even though Murnau had changed the major names of the main characters (Count Dracula, Thomas and his wife Ellen) and location enough similarity remained that Florence took the case to court and in July of 1925 the German court ordered all the copies of the movie destroyed. However a few copies did manage to survive.
While the film starts off slow it shows spectacular scenes of an ocean voyage, and waterfalls experienced during Jonathan (Bruno Ganz) Harker's journey to Count (Klaus Kinski) Dracula's castle. The contrast with his return trip is startling, since he was healthy when he started, but on the return is very sickly and barely alive. The Count's journey is very stark, his companions' death and rats board another ship, which glides into port with no one left alive on board except the rats. As the rats depart the ship one reminded of the story of Ben, where the rats were everywhere and out of control.
An interesting dilemma in this film is the direct confrontation of belief in the existence of the supernatural and sacramental with belief in the rationale of science. Science was believed to able to explain away rationally anything that happened out of the ordinary. Yet here it could not produce an answer for Lucy (Isabelle Adjani) Harker. The way that this was shown was that after consulting with the town physician, Lucy broke and crumbed the Eucharist around Jonathan to keep him locked into a chair in a corner all night, while she became the sacrificed lamb to save him from the Count and death. While she did this out of her love for Jonathan, her sacrifice resulted in the final demise of Count Dracula and her own death. Yet Jonathan in essence lives on to carry the legacy of the living dead, alive yet not fully. The last that is seen of Jonathan is when he is released from his imposed prison, by the removal of the broken host around him, he declares that he has much work to accomplish he mounts a horse and rides off.
on August 17, 2007
this is one different movie.it's Werner Herzog's version of the Dracula
story.(it is in English)it's a low budget affair to be sure,but that
doesn't detract from it's quality as a film.you won't find any over the
top blood and guts in this one,and the acting is very subdued,but not
in a bad way.the movie itself is very haunting and creepy.i like how
the light and shadows were utilized.Klaus Kinski portrays Dracula and
brings an element of sympathy to the character,but also makes him more
tragic.Dracula is not depicted as a suave seducer of women in this
film.quite the opposite.he is actually just this side of hideous and
repulsive.the makeup dept did a great job with this character.Isabelle
Adjani portrays Lucy Harker,object of the count's desire,and new wife
of Jonathon(Bruno Ganz).Adjani is very effective in her role as the
haunting beauty best by nightmares and a sense of dread.Bruno Ganz as
Jonathon is also well portrayed,but the movie is really more a tragic
love story(although twisted) between Lucy and the count.the character
of Dr. Van Helsing is really a minor character here.the character of
Renfield played by Roland Topor,steals the show with his scenes,and not
always in a good way.the character is equal parts compelling and
annoying.that maniacal laugh wears thin sometimes,but Topor really
seems gleeful in the role.the movie is filled with dread and melancholy and
i think is much more accurate and faithful to the novel by Bram
Stoker.the only thing i didn't like about this movie is that the music
sometimes doesn't seem to fit.sometimes it's almost whimsical,when i
don't think it should be.also if you are expecting a fast paced
movie,you will be disappointed with this one.it can be very slow at
times.otherwise,it's a pretty decent adaptation.is it the definitive
version?possibly.for me,"Nosferatu:The Vampyre" is a 4/5
on September 4, 2004
Although there are some great atmospheric shots in Nosferatu, as well as major creepiness any time the vampire himself comes onto the screen, there are long periods when the film just seems to stutter and die. This is not simply due to the generally slow pace of the film, although that does play a part sometimes. Rather, there are just too many minor annoyances that pile up. There is far too much "moralizing", especially towards the end of the film. The trouble is that these moralizing speeches come across sounding like the characters who are speaking them are utterly uninterested in what they are saying; ex. when Mary says to Dracula "salvation must come from within ourselves", she says it so matter-of-factly that any effect that the statement might have had on the viewer completely dissappears. And on and on.
Perhaps these scenes sound better in the German version; I don't know.
Also, for such a serious movie it's quite hard to take some of the actors in it seriously; the madman who joins Dracula when he comes to London has a laugh that is so ridiculous by the end of the film that it's just not possible to not crack up laughing at his acting (probably not what Herzog had intended). I was also quite dissappointed with Van Helsing's character in this movie, who during half of his time on the set rambles on about how Science (with a capital S) has DISPROVED everything supernatural (which, apart from being completely at odds with his character in the original book, is also a very stupid statement).
Scenes that were important in the original movie (such as the ship's journey to England) are given short shrift here.
Also, Herzog doesn't seem to mind introducing continuity problems for the sake of atmosphere. For example, when Jonathan is in Dracula's castle there is a young Gypsy boy who stands in the daytime near the castle, alone, and plays (really badly) a strange melody on a fiddle. Why anyone would want to stand beneath Dracula's castle and play on a fiddle is not answered.
There ARE some redeeming factors to the film. For example, the introduction to this film is marvellously creepy and unnerving, showing us statues of dead and decomposing bodies. I also really liked how Herzog handled the plague that came to London (although why one vampire would want to kill hundreds of people each night is beyond me...); there is one extended scene in particular where the camera takes a stroll through the sickened city, where those who pay attention to detail will be able to find all sort of gruesome and disturbing events that happen, perfectly choreographed.
Overall, though, this does not seem to me to be the classic that many here are making it out to be. I've heard that the German version is superior, so perhaps I've judged the film too early.
on May 25, 2004
For our second outing between Kinski and Herzog we find that the director has chosen to remake, or rather retell, his favorite film of all time - 'Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens' by F.W. Murnau (1922), while at the same time adapting more of the original Stoker novel into the remake, using the original name of Count Dracula (Kinski) instead of Orlok and injecting his own take on the story of Dracula (in German), which for all intensive purposes is a story about 'tragedy' and Herzog has correctly identified this main theme that would help levitate this entry to one of the all time great art-house horror films with images of Kinski's vampire often filling many film magazine pages and posters. In fact, it is Herzog's most commercial and accessible film to date. It was this telling of the Dracula story that influenced Coppola to remake the Stoker novel entirely into a film. It was not the first time Coppola had been influenced by Herzog. Coppola learned from Kinski and Herzog in "Aguirre: Wraith of God" that guerilla film making while going up a jungle river would be just what he needed for his version of Conrad's "Hearts of Darkness" (Apocalypse Now).
The usual Kinski/Herzog display of frustration is more subtle in this film than all the others probably because the beautiful Isabelle Adjani keeps Kinski distracted long enough for him not get angry with Herzog's cruel daily shoots to 'get it right' and deliberately making the actors and actresses angry for their performances. Here everyone just looks deathly sick and move extremely slowly. Even Adjani looks paler than Kinski at times. For some reason this has given Herzog a more controlled approach to this film with certainly less improvisation and 'on the spot' acting than any of his other collaborations with Kinski. Here we see a mix of Herzog's favorite - Tarkovsky's slow shooting style while cutting in shots of water (Herzog uses a bat in slow motion) and some sort of strange cinematic art house presence that we would see in many of Andy Warhol's productions. Herzog also gets the lighting just right and the cinematography is sublime - watching Kinski materialize from the darkness is again some of the most memorable images in art house cinema ever. Herzog also brings coffins en masse for display. Black coffins play a major role in the design throughout the film. Later on during a plague thousands of rats covering a city become central to Herzog's eye for capturing horror (a formal dinner takes place among hundreds of rats because the diners have the plague and wish to make the best of it before they die) - again extremely visionary and talented. Adjani puts on an amazing performance while remaining stunning under all the white. In one classic scene where she is confronted by Kinski she looks and acts more scary than Kinski almost performing him off the screen. The ending is an erotic take on the original film with Kinski touching Adjani all over, but the acting is excellent. The final twist comes as a shocker and is a bit funny. The end scene is like something out of a great Western and looks spectacular. Also the strange atmosphere of holiness is found throughout this film more than in any other Herzog/Kinski collaboration. The use of Orchestral sounds makes it all the more eerie while at the same time retaining that spirited electric connection to the presentation of madness that Herzog and Kinski are so well noted for.
'Nosferatu the Vampyre' is probably one of the most original art house horror films ever made even though the subject matter has been beaten to death, however it still ranks up there as one of the best versions of Dracula you can see. The DVD transfer is good and crisp. The aspect ratio is 1.85:1 and there are a lot of extras including director's commentary. By the way you can get the Kinski/Herzog box set of 6 films for a few quid extra than this stand alone DVD. Go look for it.
on April 22, 2004
"Nosferatu the Vampyre" is the 1979 remake of the 1929 silent film classic. I have read a lot of reviews comparing the two, but I can't; I never saw the original. It is basicly Bram Stoker's book "Dracula" with a few twists. Dracula (who's face looks like a rat without hair) comes to western Europe (he goes to Amsterdam instead of London) and spreads a new Bubonic Plauge with rats around town. The only person who knows what's going on is Lucy. As you can see, there are a few changes to the book. Mina and Lucy trade positions. Professor Van Helsing is more or less useless, and dosn't even show up until the end. Renfield is Harkers boss and sends him to Dracula. And while we're on the subject, how did Renfield become entrances to the Count if the two never met before? The montage scenes with Harker going across the Carpathian Mountains are beautifully shot, the waterfalls and grassy pastures are magnificent, makes me wish I could go there. The movie is in German with English subtitles. But if you get this DVD, there is also a second disk that is dubbed in English, which isn't bad, as far as dubbing goes. I think both versions are equal. And then there is the suprise at the end, I thought that was a actually a stroke of inspiration. The movie is rated PG, so it isn't very bloody at all. Suitable for most anyone.
on January 16, 2004
The first thing I need to point out before I write one word about this film is apparently there are two versions of this film. One in German another in English. I have seen the English version. There seems to be a difference in the pacing of both films. So for those who have seen the German film, don't get mad at me if I say this movie is not paced poorly.
I have only seen a few movies by Werner Herzog they include "Aguirre: The Wrath of God", "Fitzcarraldo", and "Invincible". I personlly do not watch much German cinema and do not include Herzog among my favorite filmmakers. In fact of the little I've seen from Rainer Werner Fassbinder, I prefer him. But "Nosferatu" is a wonderful film and perhaps the one movie that impressed me most from Herzog.
I have not seen the 1922 version of "Nosferatu", although if it's any constellation I have seen "Shadow of the Vampire".
"Nosferatu" has such a vivid colorful and yet stark look to it. Herzog has created so many memorable images here. I've always thought of Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopolous as the master of imagery but here Herzog seems to be a close runner-up. There's a scene dealing with rats on a ship and instantly I started thinking of "Aguirre" and the final scene with the monkeys. Herzog and his cinematographer Jorg Schmidt-Reitwein have truly captured something special. In fact it's the camerawork that leads me to have such strong admiration for the movie.
"Nosferatu" for those who have seen the countless (no pun intended) versions of Dracula films this one, and perhaps the 1922 version is the same, is quite a different take on the story. For instance Van Helsing does not think Dracula is "undead". he makes no effort to stop him. Renfeld is not sent to the count's castle and turned into his slave, instead Harker is. Harker works for Renfeld. And speaking of Renfeld, did anyone else think Roland Topor was doing a Peter Lorre imitation? And as one reviewer pointed out this is Lucy's story, which is quite true.
This is not to say these things hurt the movie, just anyone who is a die-hard fan will notice these differences and who knows how someone would react.
If your starting to became familiar with Herzog films, like I am, I don't think this is really the place to start. I'm not convinced this is one of his "typical" films. When I think of Herzog the first movie that comes to mind is "Aguirre", but, if your a Dracula fan or if you've seen the original you'll probably want to see this. Also it would be fun to compare the two.
Bottom-line: Impressive take on the "Dracula" story with slight differences. Herzog and cinematographer create many memorable moments. And Klaus Kinski is quite good in the lead as is Isabelle Adjani (hello nurse!) as Lucy.
on April 20, 2003
Several great film makers and actors have had a go at the Dracula story since FW Murnau's stunning "Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror" in 1924, and each extrapolates something very different, but still bewitching, from the same raw material: And so it is that Werner Herzog's "Nosferatu - the Vampyre" - ostensibly a remake of Nosferatu itself - does nothing more than borrow the odd visual motif from Murnau.
Nosferatu the Vampyre is decidedly an expressionist film so, if your interest lies in the bloodlust and suspense of the Dracula story, then look elsewhere: The only flowing blood you'll see - honestly - is when Jonathan Harker cuts his thumb. Instead, Herzog builds a haunting atmosphere through some quite startling cinematography. The credits roll over hundreds of desiccated cadavers arranged in a crypt; on his way to Castle Dracula Jonathan Harker struggles into the Carpathian Mountains against all nature can throw at him: verdant Romanian valleys give way to cathedralesque caverns, furious waterfalls, and still, through seemingly impassable mountain terrain, Harker battles on. But when we reach the castle, Kinski's morose portrayal of the Count, drawn on a psychic level to Lucy Harker, poses questions of a curiously more unsettling variety: Who is the victim in all this, and who is the predator? The lonely, pallid count, drawn like a wasp to the honey-pot or the seemingly pure-in-heart Lucy Harker, dressed head to toe in virginal white, but with tresses of black hair befitting a black widow? If you think I'm reading too much in to this, consider Lucy's makeup: it's virtually identical to Dracula's - sickly white skin and black, sunken eyes. And consider the outcome of the film (which I won't give away here).
In its final twenty minutes Nosferatu really makes its mark, and one scene in particular gave me the willies: In Delft's main square, the Black Plague has taken hold, and Lucy runs through stray farm animals, miscellaneous household furniture and contaminated townsfolk who are intoxicatedly celebrating their own last hurrah. What makes the scene so striking is that it is totally silent (and thus reflective of the original Nosferatu), and accompanied by an extraordinary piece of polyphonic choral music. The credits don't mention it, and after about three days trying to track it down I've finally found it: it is a traditional Georgian folksong entitled Tsintsqaro ("At the Spring"). This confluence of music and images is perhaps one of the most haunting scenes Herzog has captured on film (which, given his gift for such scenes, is saying something).
The DVD presentation is great - I don't think the English version of the film is significantly inferior to the German one (Adjani, who's French, was dubbed in both languages anyway) and in a couple of places had a nicer touch - Kinski's groan of irritation at laying eyes on a crucifix is funnier in the English version, for example. The commentary from Herzog is also well worth listening to. In other words, I have watched the same film three times in the last five days, and I'm still singing its praises!
on January 15, 2003
...the most effective and powerful film based on the Dracula legend. Herzog fills the screen and ultimately, the viewer's senses with a dreamy landscape that though not terrifying, is almost unbearably creepy and penetrating. Klaus Kinski gives an understated and moving performance as the lamentable Nosferatu, a creature seemingly at serious odds with his vampiric nature yet unable to change it, forever trapped in his isolation and doom. What can be said about the flawless Isabelle Adjani, except that she is absolute perfection as Lucy. Fragile and almost unbearably beautiful, she is to all appearances frail yet determined to bring an end to Dracula's pestilence. The surrealistic scenes are very memorable with Popol Vuh's score adding immeasurably to the atmosphere of corrosion and misery. Nosferatu, Phantom of the Night is not unlike a wicked dream, irresistible and hypnotic, it distracts the viewer with incredible images while it burrows deep into the mind and the bone. My one and only complain concerns Renfield's incessant and incredibly annoying cackling. Fortunately, he is not on screen too often so my quibble is very minor, indeed. Forget Coppola' beautiful, yet everything-but-the-kitchen-sink version or even Tod Browning's original masterpiece with Lugosi as the unforgettable bloodsucker. Herzog's approach is far more subtle and intelligent than anything done before or since. The pacing is dead on, the performance's are uniformly excellent, the cinematography beautiful, though bleak and the direction beyond reproach.
on November 26, 2002
This is Werner Herzog's 1979 superior remake of silent classic German Expressionist vampire film F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu: Symphony of Horror. This film is all that the 1922 silent version was, and more. It begins showing Dr. Renfield giving Jonathan the order to travel to the "haunted" land beyond the Forrest, Translvania, to give Count Dracula the papers for his new home. Lucy, Jonathan's wife begs him not to go, but he does not listen. Upon arriving to Dracula's castle, Dracula sees Lucy's picture and immediately signs the papers, and travels by ship to her town. Jonathan quickly rides back, but slowly gets sicker and sicker, until he cannot even remember how he met Lucy. Dracula's arrival brings the plague, and Lucy must make the ultimate sacrifice to destroy this hideous monster deprived of love.
The film is beautifully shot, and acted, with Werner Herzog behind the camera capturing, Klaus Kinkski's terrifying portrayal of the evil Dracula killing his victims. So many memorable scenes of darkness and horror are scattered throughout this film, with the silent beauty of nature watching on the side. The music in this film adds to the atmosphere of the good side of Jonthan/Lucy, and to the evil side of Dracula. The original 1922 version of this film, was perfect in its display of gothic horror, and this film has all that the original offered, but adds more philosophy and insight, and a tragic ending that makes this version superior. Another classic from Herzog and Kinkski, I highly recommend this film to all fans of horror, vampires, and classic films. 5 stars.
on October 21, 2002
Nosferatu was originally a German expressionist film, much in the style of "The Cabinet of Dr. Calgari. Moody, extremley gothic, and very scary, shot in Germany in 1922. Max Schreck played the part of Nosferatu, aka Count Orlok, the ugliest, scariest Dracula in cinematic history. Orlak is tall and skinny, shriveled, actually, with elongated limbs, and long, sharp claws for hands. He is ancient as well. We have no leading man type here, a la Christopher Lee, who was actually a sex symbol back in the late sixties, or handsome Bela, Frank Langella, or more recently, Gary Oldman. Orlak is the combination of an evil old man, mixed with a rodent. His ears are batlike, his eyes, wide and scary, a beak nose, and his full lips hide long, ratlike fangs. He is bald as well. Klaus Kinski captured Nosferatu to a tee, although Klaus is well, flat out not as ugly as Schrek. the story is virtually Dracula retold, including Harker's trip to Transylvania, the Count buying Real Estate, the Count lusting after Lucy, and Lucy's sacrifice. There is a hidden eroticism in the final scene with Lucy that must be seen to be believed. Lucy, by the way, is portrayed by the ever sexy Isabelle Adjani, and she portays a perfect damsel in distress, who knows what she must do. The contrast in Lucy's beauty, compared to Orlak's hideous repulsiveness, only adds to the erotic chemistry that is on the screen during their scenes together, especially when Lucy is first confronted by the lustful old vampire, and he demands her love. During the famous, final scene, we see Orlak consumate his vampiric love, in full detail. Lucy almost seems to be enjoying it. Orlak must have Lucy, even if it means that his very existance is the price to be paid, so he enjoys his night of bloodlust, and lovemaking to the fullest. The movie is atmospheric, and well acted throughout, although the Van Helsing character seems a bit powerless. Then again, aside from Lucy's sacrificial beauty, what can stop the evil Count Orlak.....Highly recommended.