“Time is an abyss, profound as a thousand nights. Centuries come and go.
To be unable to grow old is terrible. Death is not the worst…
Can you imagine enduring centuries, experiencing each day the same futilities?”
All these years as a film lover, and this is the first Werner Herzog film I’ve ever seen.
Herzog believes, along with many others, that the greatest film to come out of Germany was Nosferatu, which is basically an expressionist rendering of Dracula, but with the names and a few story elements changed in an attempt to avoid issues getting the rights from Bram Stoker’s widow. It didn’t work, because it was obviously Dracula, and they attempted to destroy all copies of Nosferatu at one point. Fortunately, they failed, and once the story came to be public domain, the surviving copies were released on a larger scale. Anyway, Herzog’s love for the film is why he decided to pay homage with an update.
The thing that grabbed me right away about Herzog’s directing is that the man certainly knows how to find places to shoot, then shoots the hell out of them. From the opening credits over the real life mummified remains at El Museo de las Momias to the haunting natural landscapes traversed by Jonathan Harker on his way to visit Dracula, every shot added to the haunting scope of the film. This is a beautiful movie. The places were big and timeless, the city life eerie and lonely, filmed to capture the essence of how small we are in the face of eternity, which is obviously perfect for a vampire film.
Even during a fantastical story of immortal monsters, Herzog’s naturalistic way of shooting characters and dialogue makes it easy to see that this is a filmmaker who is also a celebrated documentarian. At least, it’s naturalistic in early scenes. Eventually the film takes on different visual tone.
There are some slow, awkward moments in the film’s early-going, but they fall away as the film’s hypnotic pace takes hold.
Fun fact: To avoid dubbing for American audiences, they actually shot this film in two languages at the same time. They would shoot the scenes in German and then in English, so two versions of the film exist. I watched the first third in English and then switched to German with subtitles, which I enjoyed much more.
My biggest takeaway from this one is that Klaus Kinski is my absolute favorite Dracula of all time. Such a sad and lonely monster, but a monster all the same. “I no longer attach any importance to sunshine or the glittering fountains that youth is so fond of. I love the darkness and the shadows.”
Just a supercut of all Kinski’s scenes would be worth the price of admission, but Nosferatu the Vampyre has much more to offer than that. This is a beautiful, haunting, mesmerizing film.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Yes, this one deserves revisiting.