Filmmaking has evolved so much in the last century, but we can still appreciate the art that is Murnau’s Nosferatu while simultaneously awaiting what’s next.
Written by Andrew Korpan / October 31, 2022
Many, many moons ago, I was introduced to the iconic character of Count Orlock, or better known as Nosferatu. No, my father wasn’t plopping me in front of the television to watch the classic 1922 film, but it was through Spongebob Squarepants of all things that I was exposed to Max Schreck’s iconic character. There’s an episode where the lights in the Krusty Krab are flickering, only for it to be revealed that Nosferatu was doing it. It always freaked me out and for years I had that image in my head with no name to go along with it. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the deluxe remastered Blu-ray via the lovely people at Kino Lorber — many thanks again — and have finally watched F.W. Murnau’s horror classic. This isn’t meant to be a review so much as an appreciation for the film as it celebrates its 100th birthday as we talk about Murnau’s film and the future adaptation coming from Robert Eggers.
For those unfamiliar with the story of Nosferatu, the film is an unofficial adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel. Count Orlock (Schreck) terrorizes a real estate agent named Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) and his wife (Greta Schröder).
Even if you haven’t seen the film, you would likely recognize several iconic shots including the one of Orlock standing in the doorframe or walking up the stairs. Aside from the shots everyone knows, there are some beautiful shots in Nosferatu. The one that jumps out is one where Hutter is looking into a little mirror and the camera manages to get the reflection into the frame. For one, the shot is so crisp for a film as old as Nosferatu is. I’m also just so intrigued by how they managed to get the framing so well with the technology available in 1922. There’s also a lovely simplicity the film in its blocking, framing, production and costume design. Maybe that’s a result of circumstances, either way, I love the way Orlock’s castle looks both on the interior and the exterior. The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) took a very similar approach to its castles, showing that modern-day films can also go this route.
And despite being a century old, Nosferatu laid the groundwork for horror films to come for years. The setup of certain scenes are still scene today, take the scene in the bar that Hutter stops in or the initial meeting between Hutter and Orlok. Sure, Nosferatu is a silent film meaning that you have to read the dialogue as opposed to hearing it being delivered, but it is admittedly funny to see that the basic framework of scenes has remained the same over 100 years.
Granted, Nosferatu isn’t a very scary film to the 2022 eye. I doubt that anything you see in Nosferatu will keep you up at night outside of the design of Orlock himself. But that’s to no fault of Murnau or anyone involved in making the film, to be fair. Again, the film was made a century ago, and as Robert Ebert wonderfully put it, the film “knows none of the later tricks of the trade, like sudden threats that pop in from the side of the screen,” and that’s true. There are no cheap jumpscares that boost the volume up and have something pop up out of nowhere.
That leads me to why I’m very excited about Eggers’ remake. Eggers is the master of “elevated” horror in the 21st century. Look no further than The Witch or The Lighthouse if you need further proof. Take his latest film, The Northman, into account and you have three examples of a filmmaker who understands filmmaking and more importantly, horror. His take on Nosferatu stars Bill Skarsgård as the titular character and Lily Rose-Depp in an undisclosed role. Sure, not all classics should be remade — though Nosferatu already was in 1979 — but this feels like an exciting opportunity. Plus, you know it’s in safe hands with Eggers. Add in the fact that Skarsgård will be taking the mantle of an iconic character for the second time in his career and I think there’s very little reason to doubt the potential.
Plus, as said earlier, 1922’s Nosferatu isn’t scary to the modern eye. It would absolutely shock (and sadden) me if that were the case with Eggers’ adaptation. With the advancements in both technology and how we make movies, I think a terrifying Nosferatu could be in store. Now, I don’t want jumpscares galore by any means, but I can already imagine Skarsgård creeping around with caskets in hand.
I don’t know, maybe I'm being overly-optimistic coming off of the high that is 1922’s Nosferatu. I’m also a big fan of Eggers, who’s 3 for 3 in my book with his directorial features. It's as if you asked me who I would want to make a new mob movie; is anyone but Martin Scorsese the right answer? Filmmaking has evolved so much in the last century, but we can still appreciate the art that is Murnau’s Nosferatu while simultaneously awaiting what’s next.
This feature was made possible by Kino Lorber. Thank you for sending over a copy of the deluxe remastered edition of the film.