Nosferatu the Vampyre
Forget Twilight – vampires should be really scary. Werner Herzog’s 1979 vampire movie is being released as part of BFI’s Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film series, along with other horror classics, The Innocents and An American Werewolf in London. It does not disappoint.
Nosferatu the Vampyre feels a bit like a bad dream; Klaus Kinski’s portrayal of Count Dracula is terrifying, enhanced by the makeup and wardrobe choices, in particular the sharpened fingernails and his fang-like front teeth. Herzog described the performance: “It took 50 years to find a vampire to rival the one Murnau created, and I say that no one on the next 50 years will be able to play Nosferatu like Kinski has done.”
The movie relies on a strong story, convincing acting and some clever shadows to induce fear in its audience, with no trace of the gore modern vampire films seem preoccupied with. There are some glimpses of subtle humour that make the movie feel like a more modern production.
Unlike more recent vampire movies no one has a relationship with the vampire – he is not a sex symbol – however when his weakness and vulnerabilities are exposed the audience does feel a little sympathy for the pathetic, evil creature.
It is the other characters that are lacking in substance. Isabelle Adjani’s pure-at-heart Lucy Harker is disappointing; Bruno Ganz’s Jonathan Harker is naïf and too easily led, but his character stands out when he transforms into a vampire; Roland Topor’s Renfield is brilliantly funny and dark.
Atmospheric pictures of the landscape and sky slow down the pace of the film but remind the audience of the film’s silent movie influences, and the soundtrack featuring Wagner and Popul Vuh aptly conjures fear and suspense.
A modern audience may find Nosferatu the Vampyre a little slow-moving; however, it is considerably easier to watch than the 1922 silent, black-and-white Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, on which it is based. It is a must-see for horror enthusiasts, or anyone wanting an uneasy Halloween viewing experience.
Nosferatu the Vampyre is re-released in the UK on 1st November 2013.
Watch the trailer for Nosferatu the Vampyre here: