Nosferatu the Vampyre

Nosferatu the Vampyre ★★★★★

The strangest thing about Werner Herzog's Nosferatu is that I consider it a perfect remake of the original Nosferatu as well as easily the best vampire movie I've ever seen, but despite all that it still somehow doesn't live up to the promise made by the absolutely incredible opening credits. The movie begins with footage of real life mummies and incredibly creepy orchestral music. It brings into focus the ideas of death, the afterlife, eternity, and the undead, all of which will form one of the many thematic kernels of the forthcoming narrative. It gave me chills. The music is brought back later and overall I absolutely loved the movie, but there's something truly haunting about this opening which is never quite recreated later in the story.

Nosferatu the Vampyre is exceptionally intelligent and beautiful not just for a vampire movie, but for any genre of cinema. On top of the exploration of death vs. eternal life, there's also a lot of imagery which evokes the power of nature over humanity (especially through the immense landscapes) which recalls Herzog's earlier work in Aguirre. There's also a little bit about faith and religion since Dracula is "cursed" and Lucy complains that God is never around when he's most needed.

I don't know how they did it, but the nighttime photography is absolutely gorgeous. The use of lighting and shadows is incredible, in particular one shot where Dracula's shadow slowly engulfs the front of the Harkers' house. And when his shadow enters the bathroom in the reflection of a mirror. And in the half-lit portraits in his castle. And when the ghost ship drifts into port. And all the time for the entire movie.

In terms of remaking 1922's Nosferatu, there are lots of lovingly recreated shots, from the stay at the inn and the arrival at the castle to the final showdown between Lucy and Dracula. The makeup is also quite reminiscent of the original, down to the signature teeth being in the center rather than on the canines. The original Nosferatu is one of a very short list of silent films I genuinely love so I was skeptical this would be able to do it justice, but to be honest I actually enjoyed it slightly more.

Also, I haven't seen the original recently enough to remember, but Lucy was a huge badass in this one and I don't remember her being so strong. It's a lot of fun rooting for her and despairing at her sacrifice.

Final note: When I was in college I wrote a quick one paragraph analysis of (the original) Nosferatu as the embodiment of jealous superego, so here's a link to that for anyone who wants to laugh at younger me's silly ideas.

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