Each time I see a film like ‘Nosferatu’ from the silent time period I cannot help reflecting how different the experience of watching movies was in the first three decades of the history of cinema. Even today when the big equalizer of cinema watching which is the home TV screen and the elaborated music that now comes together with almost any silent film should bring the experience closer to watching a contemporary film, the feeling of watching a different type of films, with focus on the image quality and actors expressive skills almost derives in the feeling that I am watching a different art – one that may even come closer to deserve the numeral seven in the order of classical arts.

source www.imdb.com

The 1922 version of ‘Nosferatu’ is considered as the first horror and vampires film in history, the opener to a series of films inspired by Briam Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ which by now seems endless and covers multiple genres beyond being a genre by itself. Is it a scary movie? Certainly not by the norms of the 21st century viewer. Yet one can find here many of the elements that will be used later not only by the Dracula series and vampire flicks, but also other genres of horror story- embryos of the Rocky Horror show are present in a scene where a science professor explains carnivore plants to his pupils, in other scenes rats and spiders show up in a premonition of their respective sub-genres. The quality of the film resides however in the complex settings, in the stylish costumes and in the camera work which brings to perfection the fixed camera style filling in the screen with shapes, movements, and suggestions. Also remarkable is the quality of the script and the fluidity of the story telling, F.W. Murnau succeeds to create a Gothic story with action plans which run in parallel just to meet at the maximum suspense point, a technique that will be used and brought to perfection later by directors like Hitchcock. And yes, the scenes that take place in Transylvania are quite well made, no big gaffes or historic mix-ups as it too often happens in other more recent ‘Dracula’ films. There is of course some real or fake ingenuity in the feminine character who sacrifices herself to the vampire for the greater community good, but this part is also in line with the quality naivety of other great silent movies.

(video source LuckyStrike502)

I have seen on the European ARTE TV channel the digitized version of the film, based on multiple sources from the German and Czech archives. The youTube version is very similar in image, but differs in the interlude scripts (which are an important elements in the atmosphere setting) and the very inspired music score. Try to find to see this new version, it is worth the effort, and maybe to some extent closer to the original, although it is paradoxically the most recent. Director Murnau has left a legacy including this film and a few other considered today masterpieces of the German expressionist movie industry. By the the time he died the year was 1931, two or three years in the spoken film era, Murnau had moved to America, but never got to making the great movies of a career in the spoken film art, a career that we shall never know.