Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Nosferatu: the Vampyre (1979)

Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to sell a house to the reclusive Count Dracula, despite the manifold warnings of the locals that the Count and his castle are bad, bad news.  When the unnerving, rat-toothed Count becomes besotted with an image of Harker's wife (who has been inexplicably re-named Lucy, instead of Mina), old Jonathon starts to regret his pigheadedness ... for death now draws close to his home and family.

If you search online for reviews of this remake of the 1922 classic Nosferatu, you'll find glowing accounts from multiple sources, including the late Roger Ebert.

I have no idea why.

Yes, the film is visually quite striking at times.  But artfully shot landscapes and re-mixes of the clever imagery of the original film do not make a good movie.  Not by themselves, anyway.

Perhaps the film works better in German.  It was filmed in both that language and in English, and given the heritage of the actors and writers it's entirely possible that the acting and the script both suffered in translation.  Certainly I hope that it did, because in English they're both at a community theatre levels.  When you're making a sombre horror film and the dialogue feels like a retread of Monty Python's Cheese Shop sketch, something has gone wrong.

Ironically, this is a remake of a silent film that I suspect would itself work better as a silent movie.  Mute all the dialogue and add a few text interstitials, and the film would at least be a treat for the eyes without being an assault on the ears.

Or you could just watch F W Murnau's original film, instead.  That's what I'd do.

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