BFI Classics: Nosferatu (Phantom der Nacht)

Author: S. S. Prawer


One of the slimmer volumes in the BFI series, Prawer’s examination of Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979, and not to be confused with F. W. Murnau’s silent classic of 1921, Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie des Grauens) spends as much time examining Herzog and his idiosyncratic methods as it does the film itself.

While admiring of Herzog’s re-imagining of the Dracula story, Prawer is not so ungracious as to ignore elements of his film that are more successfully conveyed by Murnau’s – and sometimes these things are very subtle, for example the way each director frames their protagonist in a window, and the placement of an actor’s hand, or on a grander scale (the arrival of the fiend’s ship into Germany).

If you’re a casual fan of Herzog’s, this is a good introduction in terms of his biography and early career. This is more useful, however, for film students wanting direct comparisons between the Murnau and Herzog interpretations of the Dracula legend.

Clare Moody

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