Saturday, May 01, 2010

Orlok the Vampire in 3D – review

Director: FW Murnau and Keith Carter

Release date: 1922/2009

Contains spoilers

Nosferatu is the oldest surviving vampire film and is also a masterpiece of German expressionist cinema.

Orlok the Vampire is a reimagining of the film by treating the original in such a way that it becomes 3D if you use the red/blue glasses. It is also deeply flawed as I pointed out after seeing this at the 2009 Bram Stoker Film Festival.

However let us get the 3D aspects, as created by Chris Heuer, out of the way. The 3D really does work and I have to take my hat off to the technique. It is very clever indeed. One cannot say the same with respect to what was then done with the film and the problems fall into two camps: Sound and Vision.

Let us take vision first. There are additional scenes added into the film. We get establishing shots of castles, additional victims and such like. Actually we can say that these were slipped in rather well, they didn’t feel unauthentic but, to a purist, they stuck out like a sore thumb and one questions how necessary they were. A CGI bat motif to segue between some scenes was unnecessary and cheesy.

Worse was the fact that the dialogue cards have increased in number, throwing in additional explanations for an uneducated generation. The increased number stifled the flow of the film and the phrases quite often used too modern a vernacular. Beyond that some made little sense: “Hutter was impotent with fear. Yet he showed great courage” is one that springs to mind… think about the oxymoron there. Worst of all some of the dialogue and a brutal re-edit of scenes serve to change the story.

We get an idea now that there was some sort of psychic connection between Ellen and Orlok, she reaches out to him in her sleep and calls him master. There are two problems with this. Firstly the entire point was that the psychic connection was between Ellen and Hutter – indeed in Murnau’s vision she seems to save Hutter’s life from her slumber as she calls out to him, across the miles, when Orlok approaches the poor man. Secondly it buggers up the entire principle of Orlok being killed as, if Ellen is a servant of the vampire, she is hardly pure.

The fact that they decided to move the film’s primary location from Germany to England showed a noodling of the highest and most pointless order.

The problem with the sound is twofold. Firstly the music is misjudged and, frankly, awful. Hell we even get The Flight of the Bumble-Bee at one point. Music is important in film, more so in silent film, and choosing appropriate music for scenes is an art that those responsible for Orlok 3D clearly have little skill in. Even worse is the fact that we are no longer watching a silent film. Added sound effects of giggling, growling, kissy noises and wordless grunts cheapened the film and was akin to a Benny Hill sketch.

Somehow Keith Carter managed to make a masterpiece a chore to watch – despite the 3D gimmick. After watching this I put the marvellous Kino restoration on to compare a few scenes and, having struggled through Orlok, I found myself transfixed and transported.

2 out of 10, recognises the very clever 3D techniques but if you want a modernistic imagining try the Industrial/Gothic remix or for a beautiful restoration try the Kino release. This version is interesting only for a gimmick and the gimmick is of limited value – beyond that the film displays a lack of understanding of filmic conventions with regards the use of music in (silent) cinema and a gross disrespect of the original film that verges on the criminal.


Christine said...

I don´t know what to think about this. I am not at all fan of these modern meddlings with Dracula - turning Dracula as hero, Lucy as "bad" girl, that sort of things - and now we have "re-imagining" of Nosferatu. Hm...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

indeed, and not a good one...

Gabriel said...

I am not a big fan of this current trend to make almost every film 3D.

Avatar was quite enjoyable as a 3D experience, but since then every other film is coming out in 3D and most efforts compared to Avatar have been atrocious. What's more annoying is when films such as Clash of the Titans are only released as 3D films like it was here, and you have no option to view said film in 2D.

I'm not certain whether vampire films would qualify as working with 3D conversion. The only thing I can imagine would work would be shadow effects with Radu/Dracula/Orlok seeing the shadow reach out at you, or getting attacked through the screen by a crap-bat.

In regards to Gothic cenery such as 3D cemeteries and vampire castles and what-not, I think they'd need Avataresque budgets to pull it off, and I think no vampire film is ever going to have that kind of budget.

Finally what are people doing to this Nosferatu film anyways? Isn't anything sacred anymore?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

clearly nothing is sacred but it isn't the 3D that is the problem with this - its the other messing with it that kills the film. The 3D itself is a gimmick and, generally, I agree that 3Ding films all the time is getting tiresome (Incidentaly the word is that the next Underworld film will be 3D)