Framework: Nosferatu

Our weekly DIY film school series continues on a spooky October note with the 1922 vampire classic.

Framework is a year-long DIY film school; 52 essential films to expand your consciousness.

With the onset of October comes the season of the macabre and the spooky. To kick off the season in style (Weimar German Expressionist style, that is), Le Cinéclub/The Film Society will be screening F.W. Murnau’s master work, Nosferatu, on Friday, Oct. 5 at the gothic-inspired Westmount Park United Church, and it is not to be missed.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the release of Nosferatu, and subsequently the birth of the vampire film. Based without permission on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Murnau’s film was nearly lost in 1924, when it was ordered by the Stoker estate to be destroyed due to its copyright infringement. Already in international circulation, Nosferatu ironically lived on, and now, nearly a century old, it has become a classic of film history.

Max Schreck grows a second skin in his never-to-be-forgotten role as Count Orlock, a Dracula-esque man-demon who is intent on travelling from Transylvania to Wisborg, Germany in search of Ellen Hutter (Greta Schroeder), the pure of heart (and blood) maiden he is cosmically chained to.

Initially, Scheck’s vampire leans more towards creepy human than immortal demon, yet as the film progresses, Count Orlock becomes increasingly ominous, growing from bizarre castle dweller to fierce and distorted creature. His time on screen is spent within obscure framing, and his towering presence exists through an oppressive crawling shadow that lurks around each corner. Bearing in mind the context (technical and political) of the time, Murnau’s decision to shoot on location as opposed to a controlled studio environment further accentuated the plausibility for audiences that such a horror could exist amongst men.

We’ve come a long way in our collective visioning of monsters on screen, specifically when focused on the sub-genre of vampire horror. Look no further than the Twilight trilogy to find mainstream’s point of reference for today’s vampire demon. Thankfully, vampires didn’t always sparkle in the daylight, although there is one inherent theme that has remained faithful over 90 years of filmmaking: vampires love. Nosferati, claimed to be the walking dead, retain a shred of existence through their ability to experience the most human of all emotions — lust, longing and love, which may just be the reason audiences keep coming back for more. ■

Le Cinéclub/ The Film Society will screen Nosferatu, set to live music,  Friday Oct. 5 at Westmount Park United Church (4695 Maisonneuve W.), 8 p.m., $12 or $8 for students and seniors. It is also available to rent at Boîte Noire and Le Septième in the east, Avenue Video in the west, and iTunes if you love your couch more than people.

Leave a Reply