★★★★ Rewatched 12 Feb, 2023
Last year has passed 100 years since the release of this mother of vampire and horror film genre, which remains truly creepy to this day. From today’s perspective, interestingly feels like an imaginative pandemic movie. As it deals with a plague in a small German town in the first half of the 19th century. We can all literally relate to the feeling of being trapped in our homes in the final act of the story.
As the legend goes this film was nearly destroyed because the court ruled it to be an unauthorized adaptation of the famous novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, even though the filmmakers changed the names and situations and overall simplified the story.
It’s a silent movie that must rely on the soundtrack and visuals to convey the feelings and mood. Since it was made in the emerging time of the film language the director Murnau expertly uses all the tricks available to him. His use of light and most prominently the shadow as well as basic transitions, costumes, and makeup are influential to this day. The film was shot with a single camera often on real locations in Slovakia (which gave me a strong Slovenian vibe) standing in for Transylvania. Most of the shots are also still, which leaves the heavy burden of creepiness on the shoulders of the actors.
Count Orlok, played by Max Schreck, is a proto-vampire with pale skin, bulging eyes, pointy ears, and rat-like teeth. His movement is so unsettling that there is no need to hear his voice. Based on Eastern European folklore it remains in stark contrast to Bela Lugosi’s slick Count Dracula, which became the prototype for modern elegant vampires, luring people into their net with their charm and power of seduction.
Makes me wonder how many of today’s films will not just remain watchable, but also influential, 100 years from now.