Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens (A Symphony of Horrors): A Definitive German Expressionist Film

         There are ways in which a film can be examined in its historical context and its global context. F.W. Murnau’s film entitled Nosferatu, fits into both categories. The film was created in 1922, thus it can be examined in its historical context as a film from that period in cinematic history. The film is also classified as a German Expressionist film, thus it has a global context as well. This genre of cinema is special in the sense that it carries the country in which the genre originated as part of its name. It is not hard to guess from what part of the world these films come from. The genre consists of mostly silent films though. Having the subtitles translated into English may take away the only thing in these films that makes them distinctly German. An interesting thing to think about is whether or not there is anything else in these films that would give them away as being distinctly German.

         Nosferatu is a good film to examine in order to answer this question. In looking at the elements of this film, one realizes a distinct style in the gloomy sets, the drab costumes worn by the characters, the use of lighting, and the subject matter of the story itself. These elements can be classified as “Expressionist.” Being a vampire story, the film creates an eerie feeling using all of these elements. The fact that Nosferatu is basically a German remake of the original Dracula provides an easy way to define the style of German Expressionism as well. One only needs to compare the two versions in order to find examples of how this film has a global context in its German Expressionist style. Perhaps a good word to sum up the style that is German Expressionism is “Surreal.” Nosferatu definitely creates that feeling of being surreal in its sets and the costume of Count Orlock as “Nosferatu.” The character of the tall, thin, ratty-looking villain is perhaps the most recognizable part of this film and has been imitated countless times since this film was made.

         It is hard to say whether these cinematic elements are distinctly German in nature, but Nosferatu is a great example of German Expressionism and a good film to examine in a global perspective.

Brian Schuldt

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