Nosferatu the Vampyre ★★★★½

Letterboxd can be a lonely place sometimes. When I first watched Aguirre: The Wrath of God, I was underwhelmed beyond belief. Here, supposedly, was a masterful film about the descent into madness; and I was left cold. Amateurish camerawork, lazy editing, and one great performance by Klaus Kinski equals an experience that left me saying; "really?"

Now, let me preface this review by saying that Werner Herzog's filmography is hit/miss with me. Rescue Dawn and Grizzly Man blew me away on their respective viewings, and I already mentioned how I feel about Aguirre: The Wrath of God. So, I went into Nosteratu The Vampyre with level expectations.

Well, I shouldn't have worried, because this film is utterly incredible.

This is like they took the original Nosteratu and fleshed out every aspect of production. I'm not saying the original film is bad (It's one of my favorite horror films), but Herzog's version eradicates it in every possible way. The characters are fleshed out, especially in regards to the characters of Count Dracula and Jonathan Harker. The screenplay is stripped down to its essentials, allowing imagery to take a forefront in the story. The pacing is deliberate and glacial, heightening the mindset and inner feeling of the characters. The acting is emotional and mesmerizing, with the actors bringing massive undercurrents of feeling with sly glances and stares. The locations are empty and harrowing, portraying a haunting mood that isn't like anything else in the cinema.

Basically that is how you describe this entire experience as a whole; haunting. If you haven't noticed yet, I still haven't mentioned the cinematography. That's because its freaking perfect, and I wanted to talk in detail about it.

The haunting tone would be nothing without the shadowy and achingly claustrophobic cinematography on display. Long and void-like hallways, dusty and dark. Empty castles, full of shadows and frightening scurries of noise in the blackness. Reflections, or lack of thereof, providing goosebump-inducing combinations of light and shadow. Truly, the cinematography is some of the best that I have seen.

And now to Herzog's direction, which is flawless. Gone is the amateurish and (I felt at least) lazy camerawork in Aguirre. What we have here is painstakingly crafted imagery, serving a poetic and intellectual purpose in telling a heartbreaking and tragic story of a creature who wants to love and be loved. The landscapes, magically composed, bring more emotional connection to any story that I have seen in recent memory. You can feel the isolation, the heartbreak, the loneliness, the death, the sadness, the emptiness, and the lack of love in EVERY frame of this movie. The music also aids in this core of underlying feeling, projecting an operatic feel to a film that already feels theatrical in tone.

Overall, Nosteratu the Vampyre is one of the greatest horror films that I have ever seen, and it might be one of the greatest films that I have seen in general. Visual and poetic storytelling, marvelous cinematography, impeccable performances, and a genuine emotional core combines to form one powerhouse of a movie.

Also, nightmares are guaranteed.

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