Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)

NOSFERATU: PHANTOM DER NACHT (1979)
aka Nosferatu the Vampyre
Article 3526 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-16-2011
Posting Date: 4-10-2011
Directed by Werner Herzog
Featuring Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz
Country: West Germany / France
What it is: Adaptation of DRACULA

Jonathan Harker undertakes a journey to the castle of Count Dracula in Transylvania in order to close a deal on some real estate. He soon discovers that Dracula is a creature of evil with designs on his wife, and he must try to escape the castle and return home to save her.

The original NOSFERATU was an unauthorized adaptation of “Dracula”, and I do find it a bit odd that Werner Herzog chose to title his version of the Dracula story the same. Having seen it though, there is a reason; he obviously wanted to tap into certain aspects of that version of the story, and I think he actually does a fine job at it. It’s certainly one of the quietest versions of the story, with much of the music subdued and unobtrusive, but this adds quite a bit to the subliminal sense of dread, despair, and sadness that permeates this version. As always with versions of DRACULA, I find it fascinating to see how characters are reworked and modified; as in the Murnau version, the real hero in the story is Lucy, who must make the supreme sacrifice. In this one, Van Helsing is the skeptic; it’s not until too late that he takes any action. Dracula himself is tragic, sad and tortured, and Klaus Kinski’s performance in the role is excellent. Some of the visuals are fascinating; I love the way the movie emphasizes the plague subplot, especially when Lucy makes her way through the near-deserted town to discover the remaining people celebrating as best they can in the knowledge that they have the plague and will soon all be dead; most jarring is a dinner scene with all the diners surrounded by hordes of rats. Though it’s not quite as important as the Murnau version, this is definitely a worthy remake of the story.

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