Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht is a Great Bedtime Horror Story
If you are looking for a classy entry to add to your list of vampire movies, then Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht is a definite must have. The film is sweet and nuanced, able to deliver a great story with minimal effort. It does have a lot of slow paced bits (being an old movie and all that), but if you can enjoy classical films, then this one would feel very refreshing to watch. The best part is that this entire movie was filmed with a crew of only 16 people, also they filmed all dialogue sequences twice –once in German, and another with the actors repeating the same lines in English (naturally, the German version is considered to be the better version of the movie).
Dracula and Real Estate
It appears that Dracula wants to move out of Transylvania to Wismar, while his reasons are not clearly stated, he does acquire the help of Renfield, who runs a real estate business. Renfield assigns Jonathan Harker as an agent for Dracula. On the way to the castle in Transylvania to deliver papers, Jonathan learns of the various village rumors about Dracula being a vampire. While he dismisses this at first, his stay in the castle allows him to witness many inexplicable things, and he too comes to the conclusion that Dracula is a vampire.
However, his discovery is too late, as Dracula has already packed his stuff (which basically consists of a lot of coffins with cursed soil), and has left; leaving Harker trapped inside the castle. When Harker tries to escape, he falls from a great height and is injured, leaving him unable to chase prevent Dracula.
Dracula slowly kills the crew of the ship he is travelling on, making it appear that the crew is dying of a plague. Abraham Van Helsing is shown investigating the ship. This prevents anyone from Wismar realizing that a vampire has arrived in their port. Apparently, Dracula’s reason for the hasty move is his sudden affection for Lucy, Harker’s wife. Dracula saw her photo in Jonathan’s possession and found himself enthralled with her.
Lucy manages to figure out that the newest resident of the town is a vampire (and that Dracula may be the reason why Jonathan never returned), however, she realizes that no one will believe her. She decides to use herself as bait to lure Dracula to her room and allows the vampire to bite her. Dracula, so captivated by Lucy’s beauty and the taste of her blood, does not realize that the dawn has arrived. Lucy dies from the bite, but so does Dracula when he fails to escape the morning sun. Helsing arrives to discover Lucy’s sacrifice. He ensures her victory by staking Dracula.
The film does not end there however, it is later revealed that Jonathan managed to not only recuperate from his injury, he has also become a vampire himself.
A Different Kind of Vampire History
There are plenty of stories about the vampire mythos, but one of the most important tales that shaped the culture, the original novel from Bram Stoker, did not originally allow other writers or filmmakers to create a Dracula story. As it turns out, the license to use the names of Dracula, Jonathan Harker, and all the other characters in the story, where originally owned by the Stoker estate. This is why the original Nosferatu in 1922 did not use any of the names. However, a lot of time has passed since then and the story of Dracula (and the other characters) has been moved to be considered as public domain. This is why the Nosferatu remake is able to use the names that were supposed to be used in the first place.
For those of you who have seen the original 1992 Nosferatu, you will find that there are a lot of framing and cinematographic similarities between the two movies. This is entirely intentional on Herzog’s part. As he truly wanted to recreate the original film as it were meant to be. This is why the prostethics and make up for Dracula look very similar. The best part about it is that this film pays a lot of respect to the original not only in visual form, but also in spirit. Aside from being just a homage, many film critics have also come to recognize and praise Herzog’s ability to compose his own amazing scenes.