An analysis of the opening of Nosferatu by F.W. Murnau Essay
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Within the horror genre of horror, vampires are particularly popular. During the silent horror films era there was another popular genre, the western. While the western declined in popularity during the 1970’s, the horror film has sustained an audience for over 20 years. The reason for this is that things that are supernatural fascinate people and strangely people are attracted by the emotional effects of the horror films ability to shock, disgust and to repel. Some of the most popular films that feature vampires, both modern and old include – Nosferatu (1977) the earliest adaptation of “Dracula”, a novel written by Bram Stoker , in addition to this another film in the horror sector, is Van Helsing (2005), another film featuring the infamous Count Dracula.
Vampires are so popular because of their characteristics and their supernatural powers.
Count Dracula was created as a novel by a writer called Bram Stoker in 1897. At the time of its creation it didn’t spring up a lot of attention, when the movie came out more people were interested in it. Dracula has remained popular since, and many films have had him as a main antagonist or in some cases as a protagonist or used his name in the title to add additional effect to the movie. A lot of Nosferatus parts and bits were copied by modern titles. It is the second most used character in the film industry after Sherlock Holmes. Although vampires have been known and popular since medieval times, introducing Count Dracula into the genre brought real popularity to it and increased the interest in vampires. When it became popular in 1910s some people became very interested in the structure Bram Stoker wrote it and studied it at university therefore changing the novel into an academic novel.
The full name of the film is Nosferatu , Eine symphony des Grauns (in English: Nosferatu a Symphony of Horror). It was made in 1922 and was directed by F.W. Murnau, who was born in 1888 and starring Max Schreck. Before the film was made, Bram Stokers widow, Florence Stoker refused to turn her husband’s novel into a film. That brought some trouble into the making of the movie as Murnau already started producing the film. He got past this problem by cunningly changing the name of the film to Nosferatu and changing Dracula to Count Orlock.
The characters Jonathan Harker became Hutter and Van Helsing became Bulner. The setting was also changed from Victorian London to Bremen. Nosferatu was different to other films of the time. Most of the film was shot location in Eastern Europe therefore there was a sense of realism and expressionism in the film. When the film was released, Florence Stoker noticed the similarities and sued the movie. In July 1925, the German Court ordered all the prints of the film to be destroyed. However somehow the film survived the destruction and can be bought in today’s shops.
Nosferatu is a silent movie. During the time it was filmed they didn’t have the technology to film a “talking movie”. Talking movies were only introduced in the late 1920s. There is a possibility that they wanted to keep it a silent film because people were used to them, in addition to this they might have kept it a silent movie to create a special atmosphere, kind of scary and eerie. A silent film is a film with no synchronised recorded sound, especially spoken dialogue. The idea of combining motion pictures is nearly as old as the film itself.
The film Nosferatu is accompanied by classical music all the way through it. At the start of the film there is eerie music which is classical, it consists of string instruments that create an effect contrasting to the bright and happy scene. During the film the music continues and hasn’t got many changes to it but when Hutter leaves the Inn and is on his way to Count Orlock castle and crosses the bridge the music changes from a higher pitch of a steady violin into a heavier slower cello to change the atmosphere from a lighter and brighter into a darker and mysterious one. When the carriage speeds up at the end of their journey the music becomes more frantic and a harp joins in to show the action the action speeds up and becomes more intense. This also supports the supernatural effect by increasing the natural speed of music which the audience have never met and therefore making the audience more anxious.
The acting in Nosferatu is completely different to acting in modern films as in modern films the actors do not need to exaggerate their actions as much. They are accompanied by both music and effects therefore their actions are easier to understand and are self-explanatory rendering the need to exaggerate useless unless it is a comedy in which the exaggeration is far more important. During the film there is a lot of exaggeration moments when the characters need to show what they mean, how they feel, without speaking.
For example at the very start when Hutter mentions Count Orlock, everybody in the in stops what they are doing which shows that something has happened as the second before the inn was very busy and lively, now it has and died down. This shows the fear and scary atmosphere. Without the exaggeration of the characters we wouldn’t be able to see and understand what was happening. In addition to this the facial expressions of the characters really are exaggerated e.g. when Hutter wakes up you can see his face transforming from sleepy to very happy or when you see the reaction of the people when Hutter mentions the Count.
“It was a strong face, with peculiar arched nostrils and high domed forehead. His eyebrows were massive. The mouth was fixed and rather cruel looking with sharp white teeth, which hung over his lip. For the rest, his ears were pale and at the top extremely pointed, the chin was broad and strong, the cheeks firm though thin….”. This is a extract from Dracula by Bram Stoker. There isn’t much difference between the Dracula by Stoker and Count Orlock pictured by Murnau except that Count Orlock had a hunchback which gave him an aura of a freak, a deformed monster which further emphasized his horrific appearance. In addition to this Count Orlock was bald which made him a bit more scary then Dracula described by Stoker.
The lighting in Nosferatu plays a very important part in setting the atmosphere of the film. It makes the setting in most of the scenes and has a climate to it. For example at the start of the film we are presented with a bright scene containing an old German Nordic building, which is well lit and bright on the left side, but a tree on the right cast a shadow on the inn and the carriage which symbolises a mysterious shadow on the events to come. Another example of the usage of the lightning is also an example of German expressionism, this is when Hutter looks out the window and you can see the valley coming down, in the background you can see the a very dark forest which casts a shadow on the bright scene and creates an eerie and mysterious atmosphere. The use of darkness is also very important in the creation of the atmosphere. For example when it start to get dark after Hutter looks out the window we can see that the animals start to flee, which suggests to the reader that they are scared of something which is yet to come in the darkness.
Just as camera shots are framed to interpret a films narrative, so camera movement can direct an audiences attention to details or a particular viewpoint within a film. In the early days of films, scenes were shot with only one or two cameras on fixed tripods, so reality appeared in a rather two dimensional way. Now, directors commonly use multiple cameras so audiences can see the action from a range of prospective giving a more realistic, 3 dimensional experience.
The camera effects in Nosferatu suit the technology that was available to filmmakers at the time Nosferatu was filmed. The film is filmed at a frame rate of 16 to 23 frames per second. The camera plays an important part in Nosferatu as most effects are created by the camera, for example when Hutter looks out the window he can see the valley coming down. This has an effect of something leaning over the events yet to come, also when the tree is move to the fore ground and the mountain is in the background tat also has the same effect as the valley coming down. In addition to this there is a long shot and there is a mountain in the background. The long shot gives the feeling of layers in the scene.
Mise-en-scene is the most important part of Nosferatu. This is because the usage of the settings, props, costumes and makeup was very important for the silent movies as they had a message to get across (e.g. fear) without using dialogue, sound and very little music or none at all. For example at the very start of the movie the viewer is introduced with the title, its in bold letters, in a gothic style. The way its presented with the letter that look like blood is flowing down the screen, suggest that it is a horror film and gives a mysterious atmosphere. It also bring a suggestion that the film has German Expressionism in it. In addition when Hutter drops the book advising on vampires it bring him bad luck. The use of the prop there gives the viewer a sort of a feeling Hutter was stupid doing that and that the bad luck will catch up with him.
The sense of weirdness in Nosferatu is also created when Hutter looks out the window and sees the valley coming down, the animals running away we can see a man running down the hill in a nightgown. This gives the audience a feeling of confusion and puts a weird atmosphere in and leaves the audience asking themselves what is going on? Also when he throws the book down it gives the audience a sense of ignorance and irony about Hutter. When Hutter crosses the bridge to get to Orlocks cast, the bridge is used as metaphor that if he crosses he cant come back and another bridge is put in to emphasize the metaphor. In my opinion mise en scene played a very important part in Nosferatu.
Film directors and editors splice scenes together to form the most effective narrative for their films. Unused film footage of scenes and takes sometimes ends up as out takes. The cuts should help the continuity of a films storyline. The types of cuts directors insert can act as cues for audiences, helping them to pick up the storyline quicker. Some of these editing techniques include: Jump cut used to make the audience and montage to give a great deal of information in a brief period. The film Nosferatu is edited in a couple of ways. One of them is the usage of intertitles. Intertitles are special frames that show what the characters is saying and in result move the plot along and speed the action up a bit, which makes the reader more interested. Another technique that Nosferatu uses is moving from night to morning very quickly which also speeds up the action and keeps the audience interested. Many scenes with nature so its montage.
In my opinion the film Nosferatu was a very good and interesting for the times it was made in but in the long run it cannot compete with new horror films that appeal to the new audiences. Also it doesn’t have the interesting parts of modern films and the case of it now having any sound puts some audiences off. By studying I have learnt quite a lot about the movie industry and its beginnings. For example when the 1st horror movie was made and how many problems it had. In addition to this I learnt about a lot the techniques used by directors in the films.