Nosferatu Film Analysis

1079 Words5 Pages
Fig. 1 Nosferatu climbs the staircase The shadow of an elongated figure looms on the wall, and with agonising slowness, mounts the staircase to where his helpless victim lies waiting. This image (see Fig. 1) has been called “the most sinister use of shade in all Weimar cinema, a field crowded with strong competitors” (Jackson,91). Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror, was made in 1922 at the height of German Expressionism, and while not a pure example of Expressionist film the way The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is, it still distorts reality to convey the inner experience of its subjects. Nosferatu takes place in a nightmarish world which seems to come from the deep-rooted psyche of the German mind between the two world wars. Nosferatu is unmistakably…show more content…
Expressionist actors made no attempt at realistic performances, instead used exaggerated body movements to illustrate extreme emotional states. Shreck uses furtive, jerky gestures and this combined with his rodent like appearance (see Fig. 2), warns the audience that he is subhuman. Numerous accusations of antisemitism have been levelled against the film, for not only Nosferatu’s appearance but also his association with rats. These accusations are understandable in light of the fact that the film emerged at a time when anti semitism was rife in Germany. Orlok is the mysterious Other, moving from the East to the West, bringing disease and death in the pursuit of the blood of an innocent Christian woman. This is at a time when the mass migration of Eastern Jews to Germany, led them to be used as scapegoats by the rightwing press for the disastrous defeat in World War 1. They were described by papers such as Der Sturmer as the parasite that infects the Volkisch movement’s ideal of the purity of the German people. At one point Nosferatu exclaims ‘Your precious blood’, when Hutter cuts his hand, bringing to mind the old accusation of Blood Libel (that Jews ritually sacrifice Christians for blood for…show more content…
W Murnau, an openly gay, leftist intellectual and screenwriter Henrik Galeen, a Galician Jew, set out to make Nosferatu an anti semitic film. Lotte Eisner makes no mention of antisemitism in The Haunted Screen, while Siegfried Kracauer likens Orlok to the type of tyrant that brings chaos that the German people were drawn to at the time i.e Hitler (both authors are Jewish incidentally). That is not to say that Murnau and Galeen were unaware of the anti semitism in Dracula, as Nosferatu’s appearance is largely faithful to Stoker’s description. What seems more plausible is that Nosferatu is an exploration of the effects of war on Germany. After World War 1, Germany was devastated, millions were dead and wounded and Germans had to cope with paying back enormous reparations which crippled the economy. Anton Shell Kaes points out that Hutter, a naive young man is ordered East just like the 1914 generation, and when he returns he is deeply traumatised, while his wife Ellen, who embodies the homefront, lives in fear. Hutter finds Orlok sleeping in his dirt filled coffin with his eyes creepily open (see Fig. 3), reminiscent of the war trenches where soldiers lived alongside their fallen comrades. The rats that infested the trenches and fed on the dead are the same rats that follow Orlok on the ship. While Dracula portrays the conflict between the disturbing otherness from the East and decent Victorian values, Nosferatu is the
Open Document