F. W. Murnau (director)
Festival Theatre Edinburgh (studio)
31 January 2020 (released)
03 February 2020
Acclaimed pianist Forrester Clifton Pyke accompanied F. W. Murnau’s famous silent horror film live on the grand piano. On the very evening of Brexit, the timing for this screening couldn’t have been more apt! A ‘foreign’ Count spreads terror and the plague, ironically coinciding with the current outbreak of Coronavirus.
NOSFERATU (1922), an unauthorised adaptation of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, is hailed as one of the early masterpieces of German expressionist cinema and has influenced generations of filmmakers ever since. Although in this version the action is set in the fictional German town of Wisborg, estate agent Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) nonetheless travels to Transylvania to strike up a deal with a new client, a Count who wishes to buy property in Wisborg. The story pretty much follows the original source although names had been altered due to copyright issues, while other characters from the novel had been omitted altogether. For example, Hutter is of course Jonathan Harker while his wife Mina here is called Ellen (Greta Schröder). Renfield is Knock (Alexander Granach) while the Count is called Orlok (Max Schreck in his signature role) instead of Dracula. With his fearsome and cadaverous appearance and his bat-like face, Orlok seems galaxies away from the likes of Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Louis Jourdan, Frank Langella, and subsequent actors all portraying the famous Count. Only Klaus Kinski strongly resembled Schreck’s make-up in Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake.
Famous for its use of light and shadow (the scene in which Orlok’s shadow seems to climb up the stairs instead of the actual person has been copied countless times) and the exaggerated gestures and expressions turn this into a nightmarish spectacle par excellence.
Clifton Pyke’s live piano score perfectly empathized this ‘Symphony of Horrors’ and of course, it was a special treat to see it on a big screen.