(310): A Symphony of Fascination: An Evening With Count Orlock

Screen capture from YouTube

My husband is teaching a class on film this semester, so sometimes we end up spending some evenings watching whatever he intends to cover in his class the next day. This evening, we enjoyed a restored version of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. I don’t know how many of you out there have watched this film, but it was the first filmed version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, well, with all the names changed, the title changed, and the town changed from London to either Bremen (a real city in Germany) or Wisborg (a fake city, also, I assume, in Germany).

It is interesting just how many different versions of this film there have been over the years. I have owned it on VHS and DVD, and I remember the old VHS being rather short and a murky black and white. I think I first saw it in the 1980s, with a cheesy pop/rock soundtrack added. Now THAT was silly. Later, efforts were made to restore the film, and beautiful intertitles and tinting, along with sharper prints made it practically a new film.

I noted a part which I had totally forgotten in the years since I last watched: there is a scene in which a professor is showing the way in which a Venus flytrap lies in wait for its prey and then closes on the fly. This is shown alongside Knock, the film’s version of Renfield, catching and eating flies. The contrast between the orderly scientific predation and the hysterical madness with which Knock hunts his prey seems to point us to the distortion mirror: mankind with his orderly way of living vs. the vampire and his unnatural way of life. But could one not say it is merely the angle shown that makes the difference, and we are all capable of falling to the madness inherent in nature?

Or do I philosophize badly? Anyway, it was an enjoyable film, and there is so much information on the internet about it! I found a frame by frame comparison of two restorations, one from 1995 and another from 2005–06. Apparently the version I watched is neither of the two versions compared. And I have not yet begun to peruse the vast information on this next link, with loads of information about the conception, making, versions of the film and so on.

But it stands to reason that a classic film that is nearly 100 years old has had time to be submitted to many interpretations, many appreciations, many re-imaginings. The ratlike Count Orlock lives in the dreams of many generations now, even the newer ones, who discover the film on YouTube and think, whoa, this is cool…

Well, it is cool, and it is late, and I’ll say ‘night y’all til next time!


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