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Friday, I went to see Nosferatu *), at the Lutherse Kerk in Groningen, with live accompaniment from the church organ. Nosferatu is a silent classic made in 1922, and for the most part has stood the test of time.
As with most silent movies, there are some elements that now look vaguely silly: the acting is straight out of the stage melodrama, the make-up artists also seemed to think they were working for the stage, and some special effects fall flat (the best example being the use of a spotted hyena traipsing through the Westfalian rocks to represent a werewolf). But it has great (if slightly slow) pacing, beautiful romantic/Gothic imagery (shot, largely, on location in Westphalia) and best of all, one of the best, most convincing movie spooks ever. The title character, first shown in the shadows of castle Orlog, a tall, gaunt, bald creature standing in a stiff, upright pose with his hands folded like the claws of a predatory monster at rest, is genuinely scary even with the over-the-top make-up. I wonder if Max Schreck, the name of the actor who played his, was a pseudonym - it was certainly aptly chosen.

I have had the DVD of this movie in my house for some months without ever getting around to watching it. The booklet notes mention that the problems I had with the acting were addressed by the director, F.W. Murnau, in later movies, in which he tried to get rid of holdovers from stage drama. Bully for him, and for all I know, his later movies may be even better than this one.

At this screening, music was provided by Joost Langeveld, a reputed improviser on the organ. He worked well with the pacing and suspense of the movie, using prepared themes for the characters and for certain key moments. The church organ at the lutheran church is a mighty instrument which Langeveld often seemed to treat as a synthesizer or sequencer. A wholly appropriate backing for a great horror movie (not everyone I spoke to afterwards agreed, though). However, I would have preferred to hear music based on the original score, which is said to be pseudo-Wagnerian (the DVD doesn't have it either).

I will watch it again on DVD as soon as I get the TV back (my brother, who is temporarily back in the Netherlands, has it right now). It's one to study for its sheer visual craftsmanship, but also one to enjoy as a straightforward scare flick.

By the way, Jeroen designed the website of the Stichting Vrienden van de Lutherse Kerk who organised this screening, and alerted me to it. He also made the poster for it, which was a hit with the Goth crowd.

*) Link goes to a Region 2 encoded DVD at Amazon UK, because Amazon US isn't coming up for me as I write this.

Comments (2)


Murnau died in a car crash in the early 30s after moving to holywood (iirc). I can highly reccomend one of his last films, SUNRISE: A Song of Two Humans(1927). Sunrise has the distrinction of possibly being the hieght of the silent drama. It is a beautiful film and very well acted. You might also want to check out THE LAST LAUGH (I can't remember the original German title) staring Emil Jannings (who would later play the proffessor in THE BLUE ANGEL).


re: Max Schreck
Imdb has him down as Maximilian Schreck


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