Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror

Nosferatu - Eine Symphonie des Grauens

Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, Germany, 1922, Diaphana pour MK2


Adapted from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the film presents us with Jonathan Harker, a young notary sent to Transylavania to meet a gentleman by the name of Count Dracula to help him with matters relating to real estate. The young man boldly commits himself to this difficult mission without a second thought. Setting out, we see him leaving his fiancée as well as his comfortable, reassuring life behind. On his journey, he spends a night at a hostel where, following the mention of the count, the local people try to persuade him not to continue to his destination. Jonathan mocks them for their adherence to what he sees as a local superstition. Even though animals are seen moving as if alerted to an evil presence, and a book on vampires is found by his bedside as if alerting him to his certain fate, Jonathan remains oblivious and unworried. He continues his way, despite the sudden defection of his coachman, on the approach to the castle. A character encountering a series of warnings relating to a place, such as this, often indicate that the story we’re watching is fantastical in nature.

As the extract begins the hero crosses the bridge on foot, then turns one last time towards the audience and all that he knows, solemnly marking his entry into a perilous new world. The intertitle that accompanies this shot is: “No sooner had Hutter crossed the bridge than the visions he often told me of seized hold of him”. Murnau then applies the affects created by speeding up the film and the inversion of the negative directly onto the world of the character. Who, like the audience, has reached the limits of a world controlled by temporal and spatial logic. There follows a peculiar shot of a tower, which looms far away atop a rocky cliff face, which suggests the presence of a watchman. The tower appears again, when Jonathan is in place, in a tighter shot, surrounded by bats. A new coach arrives, as if by magic. It is no other than Dracula himself in disguise, yet, he also awaits Jonathan under the porch at the same time. Our hero remains calmly oblivious to the multiple incarnations of the vampire. The great wooden doors open and close without human intervention, and after a final stretch of the journey, a new threshold has to be crossed, where the count awaits him and then tells him off for making him wait. Jonathan is then beckoned into a tunnel, whose darkness swallows him whole. This seems to suggest the demons that await him to initiate him into whatever lies beyond, a darkness he’s been heading to since the start of his journey.