Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)
Director: Werner Herzog
Genre: Drama / Horror
Runtime: 107 min / USA:124 min
Country: West Germany / France
Color: Color (Eastmancolor)
Certification: Italy:VM14 (original rating) / Spain:13 / Iceland:16 / Argentina:16 / Australia:PG / Denmark:16 / Finland:K-16 / Norway:16 / Sweden:15 / UK:AA (original rating) / USA:PG / West Germany:16
- Klaus Kinski ....... Count Dracula
- Isabelle Adjani ....... Lucy Harker
- Bruno Ganz ....... Jonathan Harker
- Roland Topor ....... Renfield
- Walter Ladengast ....... Dr Van Helsing
- Dan van Husen ....... Warden
- Jan Groth ....... Harbormaster
- Carsten Bodinus ....... Schrader
- Martje Grohmann ....... Mina
- Rijk de Gooyer ....... Town official
- Clemens Scheitz ....... Clerk
- Lo van Hensbergen .......
- John Leddy ....... Coachman
- Margiet van Hartingsveld .......
- Tim Beekman ....... Coffinbearer
Werner Herzog 's Nosferatu is a direct adaptation of the original vampire movie Nosferatu eine Symphonie des Grauens directed by Friedrich Murnau.
More a tribute to the original than a remake, it has achieved a classic status and it is among the best vampire movies ever shot (imho). The story is the very classical story of the vampire base on Bram Stoker 's novel. But as Murnau had copyrights trouble with the Stoker family, he had to somehow change the title and the story and Dracula became Nosferatu.
The ironic thing is that the Murnau s story became the archetipal vampire story and that the audience had to wait the 1992 Coppola's Dracula to watch a movie more faithful to the original book.
Thus, this made the Nosferatu story even more based on popular tales and gave a strange taste of authenticity to all the myth of vampires.
A warning regarding Herzog's movie : this is not about fear nor gore. There is only one drop of blood at the beginning when Jonathan Harker cuts himself with a knife in front of the vampire, and this is never scary.
The movie tends to make the viewer to be like hypnotised by what he sees. The rythm is extremely slow, tends to be contemplative but with gorgeous images. Truly the photography on this movie is one of the most extraordinary I ever saw. Werner Herzog gives a maximum impact to every picture that he shots.
With a slow music in accordance with the rythm of the movie, the audience enters in the movie like in a dream, with a feeling of unreality. Everything become completely stylised at some point of the movie and reality or anything related to concrete things progressively disappears.
The cast of the movie is in adequation with this scheme. Isabelle Adjani plays a very etheral Lucy, almost ghost like, always set in a bright white romantic atmosphere, Bruno Ganz is a taciturn Jonathan Harker, but if his role is less interresting (Harker is always boring in every vampire movie, right ) he plays really well the progressive transformation in a vampire.
But the real star here is Klaus Kinski. As usual, he brings here all his madness that comes across the screen. It seems that Herzog liked him a lot, but some days he had to exchange insults with him during hours to be able to begin shooting.
Klaus Kinski was a bit weird in real life (and on TV => Here is a festival : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aNkWjeFWZM - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWYYzOW6GGo - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veWe0WOKyA4 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0hAss_SLrQ - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIm662A- ... s%20kinski -
Some miracle happened on the set, and he appreciated the mood of the japanese make up specialist Reiko Kruk and accepted the four hours of make up he needed to be Nosferatu).
Klaus Kinski plays a kind of unusual vampire, disapointed of being unable to experiment real human life and that cannot experiment even normal human death. More than a predator, he is desesperate and he seems to flee Transylvania more to meet people than for any other reason. Klaus Kinski performance is exceptionnal (he is helped in that by the fact that only him has interresting lines to tell about his vampiric situation, the other characters are a bit neglected).
Actually there is some weird things in this movie, Van Helsking's role is reduced to minimum, he is not a vampire hunter but a scientific sceptic until the last moment. This gives more initiative to Lucy who deals personnaly with the vampire instead of being assisted by some professionnal hunter. Mina and Lucy's names have been exchanged for some obscure reason.
Visually everything turns into madness at the half of the movie since Nosferatu brings dideases and plagues with him that destroy the life of the city. People act irrationnaly and begin to dance and live in streets as life has lost its meaning. Here Herzog make shots that remind us of flemish paintings of ealier centuries, and does so beautifully.
Some of these sequences were hard to soot, since the movie crew brought 11.000 rats in the city, and that local authorities looked at this with a real anguish, trying to stop it fearing that rats would escape and really bring diseases.
Hopefully, the rats were kept under control and this leads to amazing picures of the army of rats taking control of the place.
This is maybe the most "gothic" of vampire movies, with the pre-raphaelite style of the scenes with the pale Adjani and a lot of visual copies of the original Murnau's shot. Herzog found some of the houses in Rostock where the original movie was shot and asked Kinski to act the same. These shot-for shot copies are scattered all along the movie.
A lot is done on lights with very sophisticated shadow effects, while the dominant color of the movie are white in the day and blue at night. Truly magic.
I found the part in the mountains journeying to Nosferatu's castle really better than the second part in town. I would have wished it lasts longer. The association of landscape with music is incredible there and has no match in any other movie. The ruins selected to shot are really creepy and another movie could have been born there, marrying gothic terror with Herzog's hypnotic style. This part really puts the viewer in a puzzled mood and the return to civilization in the second part is like the awakening after a dream, a little bit disapointing.
Close shots of real mummies during the opening credits immediately puts the viewer in an atmosphere of death and madness, with a lyrical music accompaning it (actually these are mexican mummies).
Anyway I really like this movie which stands well the test of time in my opinion and I d put a 6/6. I think it gives an european genuine taste to the vampire story which is missing in most of american vampire movies (and even other european ones).
Watch it if you don t have already done it.