June 22, 2004

Politics of Nosferatu

Yes, I'm on something of a silent film kick lately. I read something about Nosferatu that I found rather astonishing. But first, I should note that I greatly admire the film -- for me, it remains the vampire film. I think Roger Ebert, of all people (I'm not a fan of his reviews generally) said it best:

To watch F.W. Murnau's ``Nosferatu'' (1922) is to see the vampire movie before it had really seen itself. Here is the story of Dracula before it was buried alive in cliches, jokes, TV skits, cartoons and more than 30 other films. The film is in awe of its material. It seems to really believe in vampires.

Max Schreck, who plays the vampire, avoids most of the theatrical touches that would distract from all the later performances, from Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee to Frank Langella to Gary Oldman. The vampire should come across not like a flamboyant actor but like a man suffering from a dread curse. Schreck plays the count more like an animal than a human being...


Not everyone found the film quite so engaging. The somewhat disappointing Ultimate Film Guide: Nosferatu does note one rather odd contemporary review:

The only hostile response to Nosferatu came from a socialist newspaper Leipziger Volkszeitung (15 March 1922), which accused the film of being an 'ideal means to turn workers away from any excessive and undesirable political activity'. It condemned the film's 'occultism' as a sad symptom of the war, but more importantly as a 'supernatural fog' through which workers would be 'unable to see concrete reality any longer'.

It seems to be almost a parody of some of the ravings of Noam Chomsky, but it predates his nonsense by several decades.

Posted by Ideofact at June 22, 2004 11:46 PM