Nosferatu: Eine symphonie des grauens
This book is part of the BFI film classics series, each book in the series takes a different film and offers a critical analysis of its content and history. In this volume, Kevin Jackson talks about F.W. Murnau’s 1922 vampire classic, Nosferatu: Eine symphonie des grauens.
The film is the first adaptation of Dracula (albeit an unofficial one) and sees young real estate agent Hutter sell a house to the mysterious Count Orlok. Orlok reveals himself to be a vampire and follows Hutter home to pray on the city and Hutter’s wife Helen.
I’ve mentioned on my blog before that Nosferatu is my favourite film of all time, so whenever I discover anything like this, I’m always eager to pick it up and learn something new about the film.
The book is broken into different sections, dealing with the German landscape leading up to the films release, pre-production, an in-depth analysis of the film itself, the public’s reaction to the film upon release and the legacy the film has garnered today.
At just over a hundred pages it’s pretty short but Jackson manages to cram a lot of information into such a small space.
He touches on a lot of ground that will be familiar to fans of the film, producer Albin Grau’s occultist leanings, Murnau’s homosexuality, the lawsuit filed against the production company by Bram Stoker’s widow and the theme of sexual repression many critics have read into the film itself.
By far the best part of the book is the scene by scene analysis of the film that Jackson offers. He repeatedly quotes from Grau’s original screenplay which offers an interesting insight into what parts of the film never made it to the screen.
The screenplay makes mention of several scenes not present in the final cut either for timing reasons or the inability to pull of the desired effects with the technology of the time. One scene in particular calls for a man sized raven to fly alongside Hutter’s carriage while the trees of the forest come to life.
While it’s hard to say whether or not these scenes would have improved or damaged the film had they been included, it’s certainly interesting to see a little more of Grau’s vision for the film.
The book ends with an enjoyable section detailing the films legacy, touching on the 1976 remake by Werner Herzog and the 2000 horror/comedy/biopic Shadow of the Vampire which sees Murnau hire a real vampire to play the part of Orlok. There’s even a mention of Paul Whitehouse’s Monster Monster Monster character from the fast show.
If you’re a big fan of Nosferatu, chances are you’ll already know most of the stuff included here. The details of the films production and the infamous lawsuit upon its release have all been documented many times before. However, while there’s not a lot here that’s new, Jackson’s essay is definitely still worth a read, there’s a lot of info but it’s presented well and it’s an easy, enjoyable read. The main point of interest is the notes on the screenplay and they’re definitely worth picking the book up for.
If you’re a film fan in general, it’s definitely worth picking up, Nosferatu truly is one of the greatest moments in cinema and it’s legacy deserves to live on for years to come.
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