Saturday, May 19, 2012

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens – Masters of Cinema edition – review

Director: F W Murnau

Release date: 1922 (film)
                   : 2007 (DVD edition)

Contains spoilers

Nosferatu is, of course, the earliest surviving vampire film. As it is in the public domain it can be downloaded gratis from the internet and bought in multi-dvd sets, singularly and in such editions as the Industrial Gothic Mix, which was the first version I reviewed on the blog, and the ill-advised and ultimately avoidable 3D version, retitled Orlock the Vampire.

As such you need a pretty darn good reason to go out and re-buy the film, especially if it is a fairly pricey set. Welcome to the Masters of Cinema edition. This is the UK release of the Kino restoration of the film and let us talk base film for a moment.

vampire's carriage
The film runs at 93 minutes, being the most complete version, I understand, of the film. It is as beautifully restored as it can be and the film is tinted throughout in a way that enhances the viewing experience. It uses the original German intertitles (where possible, or recreates them in the same font) and has optional English subtitles. The character names used are those originally used on its 1922 release and the score is the original Hans Redmann composed orchestral score, which was created for the original release of the film.

broken coffin lid
All in all this is the most complete Nosferatu experience as one could have and, for those who might doubt it, this is truly a magical experience – well deserving the 10 out of 10 that I have always scored the film. However there is more to this than just the film. There is a commentary track by R Dizon Smith and Brad Stevens and, on the second disc, a short feature on the restoration.

shadow of the vampire
Much more interesting was the 53 minute documentary, the Language of Shadows, that provided a biography of Murnau’s early life, looked briefly at some of his early, and lost, films and then explored the creation of Nosferatu. One of the more interesting aspects was the involvement of the film’s producer and art designer Albin Grau in the occult – he actually stated that Nosferatu, produced by his Prana company, was an occult film. We also hear a snippet suggesting that he had been told of a real vampire incident, during his time serving in the first world war.

Knock receives correspondence
This was intriguing but the eighty page booklet that comes with the set goes further. As well as including essays by Thomas Elsaesser, Craig Keller, Enno Patalas and Gilberto Perez, the booklet contains a translation of Grau’s article Vampire, originally published in 1921 in Bühne und Film. In it he recounts being told of the vampire incident whilst stationed in Serbia by a Serb comrade of Romanian origin. The vampire was the Serb's father and the article contains details of an official report, from Progatza and dated 1884, about the incident. Authentic or just showmanship on Grau’s part, as he marketed the film they were about to make? The jury is out, but the anecdote is fascinating either way.

All this makes this a definitive version of Nosferatu. The score is for the DVD set itself, 10 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Unknown said...

*drool*....Want it....

Taliesin_ttlg said...


Gabriel said...

Thanks for the review

Just ordered it from Amazon UK myself, we both have PAL region so it should play perfectly, so I'll let you know what I think of this version once I receive it :) but pity this wasn't a blu-ray release.

Now I just have to get Klaus Kinski's version of blu-ray, I only own it on standard dvd, along with it's semi-sequel. To be honest I rate Werner Herzog's film higher than Murnau's, which I see you rate 1 point lower?

Kinski was always the quintessential Vampyre for me, the most horrific, sublime and hypnotic.
But I agree with your assessment of this film. Interesting about the occult connection, especially since Marnau also did a FAUST film....

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi DHG... It is a matter of taste I guess. I do like Herzog's film but overall the original is more beautiful to me and certain aspects of Herzog's filming can be a tad ponderous (especially in the German edition of the film)... but ultimately they are both fine films.

The print on this is beautiful but not perfect (due to the age and imperfections on the stock) I don't know if a blu-ray treatment would add anything to the quality, tbh, but I am sure one will follow at some point.

19/5/12 2:33 PM