Nosferatu the Vampyre ★★★★½

"Time is an abyss, profound as a thousand nights"
"After we're gone, the rivers will still flow"

Herzog's Nosferatu opens on images of real life mummies, human figures in their deaths frozen in time. Passage of time and the inevitability of death haunt every frame of this surreal adaptation. Herzog creates a gallery's worth of potent images: Harker staring into a raging river (as many a Herzog protagonist has and will), a gypsy child playing violin in front of the ruins of a castle*, a stack of coffins being rafted down a river, a dead sea captain tied to the wheel of his ship, the cut that juxtaposes politicians fleeing a room with a swarm of rats, a dead horse and the collapsed carriage it was pulling in a town square full of pall bearers and coffins, and the one that I remembered the most from my previous viewing: a feast taking place in a sea of plague rats. When I first saw this image I read it as a class critique, the insanity of the bourgeoisie who would carry on as normal in the midst of such a crisis. Tonight, I felt that it was more a comment on the madness of humans in general. We're constantly aware of our own mortality, but we're typically able to ignore the death and chaos that constantly surrounds us and enjoy life anyway. The most miserable character is the one who can't die. The bravest, the one who sacrifices herself. A thin line separates man and beast and a plague of rats destroys all of the social and political institutions in the town. Pigs and sheep wander the streets that were once man's domain. "Is it possible we've all gone mad?" Lucy wonders. In Herzog's version of this story she's the object of desire fought over between two amour fou suitors, one a capitalist, the other a vampire. And there's the Expressionist Dracula story in there somewhere too.

*Lars Nilsen hilariously called this the "matinee gig at Dracula's castle."

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