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Real life vampire flick
Shadow Of The Vampire (DVD)
Member Name: Mauri
Shadow Of The Vampire (DVD)
Date: 17/10/01, updated on 17/10/01 (232 review reads)
Advantages: Great acting, good atmosphere, interesting story
Disadvantages: none really
This is an odd film!
Directed by E. Elias Merhige it is based on the making of the silent horror classic 'Nosferatu'. The original film made in 1921 was directed by F W Murnau and starred the German actor Max Schreck. It was basically the Dracula story transposed in Germany. There was a more recent remake Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979) directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinsky and Isabelle Adjani.
John Malkovich - F.W. Murnau
Willem Dafoe - Max Schreck/"Count Orlock"
Cary Elwes - Fritz Arno Wagner
Aden Gillett - Henrick Galeen
Eddie Izzard - Gustav von Wangenheim/"Thomas Hutter"
Udo Kier - Albin Grau
Catherine McCormack - Greta Schroeder/"Ellen Hutter"
Ronan Vibert - Wolfgang Müller
The premise of Shadow Of the Vampire is…what if the actor Max Schrek was really a vampire…
I have always thought that Murnau's 'Nosferatu' was a masterpiece. The use of lighting, the wonderful makeup and the innovative camera angles produced a truly scary film that begins to affect you as you get engrossed in the story, the fact it is a silent film if anything intensifies the atmosphere it manages to produce. Merhige obviously loved the original and asked the question, was there a reason that the original film worked so well?, was it purely the ability of the filmmakers and Schreck terrific performance? Or was there something else. In brilliant leap of creative imagination he explains the films powerful effect on the presence of a real vampire.
Berlin 1921 F W Murnau (John Malkovich) a leading figure in German art cinema decides to make a version of the Dracula story. He can't get permission from Bram Stoker's estate to film the original so decides to adapt the story in his own way. He calls it 'Nosferatu' and sets it in Czechoslovakia and Bremen instead of Transylvani
a and Whitby. The count is now called 'Orlock' instead of Dracula. Murnau has a reputation has a realist filmmaker and so he decides to assemble a crew and film in an old ruined castle in Czechoslovakia. He tell the crew that the lead actor Max Schreck, need to immerse himself in the role (a sort of method actor of his day) and so has been living in the castle for a while. They will meet them there. He also tells the crew that they will never see Schreck without full make up and that to further fit in to the role he will only film at night. What the crew doesn't know but slowly begin to suspect is that Schreck is really count Orlock and a real vampire.
Murnau has secretly made a pact with Schreck, in return for the vampire giving a truly realist and chilling performance in the film he will be allow to have the leading lady 'for supper' at the end of the film. She is obviously unaware of this.
The vampire however can't resist taking a few bites out of the crew while filming and the increasingly crazed Murnau becomes more and more frantic about finishing his masterpiece.
Willem Defoe brilliantly plays the Vampire as a pathetic figure, a vampire past his prime who now relies on drinking the blood from animals to feed. In one scene he tell the producer and writer of his loneliness and sadness, when they drunkenly suggest that he should go out and make more vampires he replies that he is too old, then proceeds to catch a bat out of the air bite its head off and suck its blood.
The film is not played straight, it couldn't get away with that but is instead a very very dark (comedy?) drama, making a statement about the thin distinction that can exist between films and reality. It is also a study of obsession, which can overtake people as they try and achieve their goals. There are definitely Faustian elements here. As the film develops you begin to wonder who the real monster is the director Murnau or the Vampire. He is
willing to sacrifice the lives of his crew, his leading actress and the ultimately the vampire just to satisfy his own desires.
The attention to detail is superb down to the equipment that the filmmakers are using. You really do believe that you are watching that original 'Nosferatu' being made.
Merhige manages to infuse the film with is a sinister, dark, creepy atmosphere. There is a sense of decay all around.
The performances are of the highest quality. Eddy Izzard is fantastic as the baffled co-star Gustav von Wangenheim and all the support cast are first rate. But of course it's Willem Defoe as the vampire and Malkovich as Murnau that make the film special. Defoe was nominated for an Oscar and deservedly so. Malkovich might consider himself unlucky not to have been..
As I said before it is an odd film but well worth watching.