Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nosferatu the Vampyre

Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (Nosferatu the Vampyre), 1979
Dir: Werner Herzog

Remake? Homage? Herzogian clusterfuck? I'm not really sure what this film is, but for the most part I really liked it. The look of the film can, of course, be derived from Murnau's original (and even parts of Faust), but most of the story is taken straight from Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Count Orlok reverts Count Dracula. I was thinking about all the other vampire movies that I have seen during the viewing, and was actually kind of surprised that there were a few instances (not necessarily downright "lifting" a scene, but close enough to go "huh?") in Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) that are influenced by this. Not that it really matters though. Everyone knows the story, and Herzog makes this film his own (and so did Coppola, in his "hodgepodge of influences" way).

This really is the type of Herzog film that I enjoy. Well, for the most part anyway. When ever people actually interact and "act" everything is super-serious silly. I don't really understand its purpose, even in stuff that I think is funny. Maybe it's Kinksi's influence (he is just as batshit as ever here). Dracula's mesmerizing/seduction scenes are strange to say the least, better to say absurd. The gypsies in the Transylvanian village look like Incas or something, and everything is just wacked out (esp. Renfield). Bruno Ganz gives a little glimpse of what comes down the road for him in the future as Harker, and Isabelle Adjani seems to be under the same spell, but she is forgiven simply for being a total babe. I suppose it's all about keeping the spirit of the original, but the silliness of that is what turned me off there.

So what's to like? Pretty much everything else. In keeping true to his original manifesto of trying to "capture new images," what Herzog crates an atmosphere and mood that is sincerely scary. Dracula running erratically through the town square at night with the coffin under his arm and his coat tails flapping is such an awesome depiction of deranged spirit. At the same time, Herzog also creates a film that looks into the unknown. From the opening credits, he sets a tone of these powerful images. And in all honesty, the "traveling" montages are some of the best things I have seen from Herzog, and will remind you of certain parts of Aguierre (1972). And of course, this infamous montage, which I only know is infamous in retrospect, really captures Herzog as art, and at his best. This is not the first time I have been moved by Wagner's Das Rhinegold vorspiel in a film, but it had a similar effect. Maybe the best remake ever, if you want to call it that.

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