Nosferatu Film Analysis

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In his New York Times review of Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, Vincent Canby said: “in the filmography of Werner Herzog…‘Nosferatu, the Vampyre’ looks to be a kind of charming diversion…it’s something less than the voyage of self-discovery that each of Mr. Herzog’s earlier, very original films has been…[Dracula is] not some profoundly complex character.” With all due respect to Vincent Canby, I completely and fundamentally disagree. On the one hand, I can see Canby’s angle—Herzog had already built up quite an impressive stable of films, and then he went and made a Dracula film. That seems like it could be a step down. But I’d argue the opposite—this film was an absolutely essential part of Herzog’s quest as a filmmaker. He was, of course, part …show more content…
Perhaps Herzog brought this on himself by also naming his film Nosferatu (it is a terrific name). But I would argue that his film is less of a remake and more of a Herzogian reimagining and restaging. Certainly, Herzog is paying homage to Murnau and in a few instances he actually quotes Murnau, but for the most part Herzog takes the story of Dracula and makes it his own. And since Herzog is Herzog, with such a strong authorial mark, that has a profound effect on the film. “I never thought of my film Nosferatu as being a remake. It stands on its own feet as an entirely new version. It is like both Dreyer and Bresson, who made films about Joan of Arc: one is not a remake of the other. My Nosferatu has a different context, different figures and a somewhat different story.” Although Herzog returned to the original character names from Dracula, he chose to keep the basic plot of Murnau’s story (which differed slightly from Dracula—Herzog actually wasn’t the biggest fan of Stoker’s story, saying “Bram Stoker’s Dracula is, in my opinion, a bad novel.”) For example, Dracula leaves his castle for modern London in the novel. In both films, he instead visits a small German town. Additionally in both films (but not in the novel), Jonathan’s character is intrigued by a book detailing the legend of the vampire. Later in both the films, Jonathan has the dramatic moment where the peasants tell him not to go see Dracula. That’s not in the novel either. In both films, Dracula has a special carriage to bring Jonathan to the castle (Herzog modifies this, as I’ll discuss later). And in both films, Jonathan’s locket of his wife attracts Dracula’s attention and thus Lucy becomes the next victim. Herzog keeps these Murnau plot-points for an obvious reason—they work very well as filmic moments. But diving in beyond the superficial plot similarities allows one to see how Herzog was truly making Nosferatu his own, while still

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