BURNED TO LIGHT (aka Shadow of the Vampire)

Shadow of the Vampire is a film about the making of a German all time classic silent horror-movie from 1922 called Nosferatu-Eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu-a Symphony of Horror). The production of Nosferatu had to deal with a lot of strange things (some crew members disappeared, some died). This movie focuses on the difficult relationship between Murnau, the director, and Schreck, the lead actor.

Cast (in alphabetical order): Links will take you to IMDb
Willem Dafoe .... Max Schreck
Ingeborga Dapkunaite .... Micheline
Nicholas Elliott .... Paul
Cary Elwes .... Fritz Arno Wagner
John Aden Gillett .... Henrik Galeen
Eddie Izzard .... Gustav von Wangenheim
Udo Kier .... Albin Grau
Derek Kueter .... Reporter
Sophie Langevin .... Elke
John Malkovich .... Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
Tania Marzen .... Eva
Catherine McCormack .... Greta Schroeder
Myriam Muller .... Maria
Ronan Vibert .... Wolfgang Muller

The plot of the original movie Nosferatu (1922)


This first real rendition of Dracula gives us a clearer picture of what Dracula would be without all the oversized fangs, blood, capes, & modern effects time has bestowed upon it. Murnau not having any other Dracula remakes to base his production on has stuck pretty close to the story Bram Stoker published in 1897. Murnau of course had to add some elements that were a little "off" from the book, but solely for symbolic & entertainment purposes. The title & character names had to be changed also so as to not infringe upon Mr. Stoker's novel. Dozens of Dracula films follow Murnau's but none as inspiring.

The actor who plays the vampire, Max Schreck, gives us a brilliant performance that leaves you believing he had a dead mans curse upon him. His features differ from those we are accustomed to such as his fangs being in the middle of his mouth rather than the sides. His make up, clothing, & mood give us the truly eerie & frightful feeling needed to fully enjoy this film.

The story begins in Bremen, Germany where Knock (Alexander Granach) a real estate agent, sends Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim), his employee, to visit the castle of Count Orlok to aid in his purchase of a house in town. Murnau begins to show us signs of what is to come. From the townspeople reactions to the very mention of Orlok's name & the way the animals seem to sense his presence.

Murnau demonstrates some advanced story telling by interlacing events simultaneously. He shows Hutter's wife in Bremen crying out a warning to her husband while Orlok approaches, which causes Orlok to turn away. As Hutter sensing his danger flees back home we see three scenes being simultaneously carried out. Hutter traveling home by coach, Orlok traveling by sea, & Hutter's wife restlessly waiting for her husbands return.

Upon the ships arrival into town the only one to emerge is Orlok himself. The entire Crew has "sickened" & died, leaving the townspeople to blame it on a plague. Knock is stoned while creeping about on rooftops by townspeople panicked about the plague. Hutter's wife is the one who saves the city with a selfless sacrifice. Upon learning that the sure way to kill a Vampire is to keep him out past the cock's crow she entices him to her bedside till dawn. Which Orlok finds is too late.

There are no wooden steaks through the heart or other trick's up Murnau's sleeve. He simply horrifies the audience with the film content and direction. Most of the film is shot in shadows providing the necessary darkness & mystery surrounding the storyline.

 

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