A Year: Day to Day Men: 4th of March, Solar Year 2018

Warmth of the Light

A preview by invitation of “Nosferatu”  premiered  on March 4, 1922 in the Marble Hall of the Berlin Zoological Garden.

The studio behind “Nosferatu”, Prana Film, was a short-lived silent-era German film studio founded in 1921 by Enrico Dieckmann and occultist-artist Albin Grau. Although the studio’s intent was to produce occult and supernatural themed films, “Nosferatu” was its only production. It declared bankruptcy in order to dodge copyright infringement suit from Bram Stoker’s widow Florence Balcombe.

Albin Grau had the idea to shoot a vampire film, the inspiration of which had risen from a war experience: in the winter of 1916, a Serbian farmer told him that his father was a vampire and one of the undead. Diekmann and Grau gave Henrik Galeen, a disciple of the German author Hanns Heinz Ewers, the task to write a screenplay inspired by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel “Dracula”, despite Prana Film not having obtained the film rights.

For cost reasons, cameraman Fritz Arno Wagner only had one camera available, and therefore there was only one original negative. Murnau, the director, followed Galeen’s screenplay carefully, following handwritten instructions on camera positioning, lighting, and related matters. Nevertheless, the director completely rewrote 12 pages of the script, as Galeen’s text was missing from the director’s working script.

This concerned the last scene of the film, in which Ellen sacrifices herself and the vampire dies in the first rays of the Sun. Murnau prepared carefully; there were sketches that were to correspond exactly to each filmed scene, and he used a metronome to control the pace of the acting.

The film was praised for its visual style; Murnau’s nature shots were praised as “mood-creating elements”. However, the Bram Stoker estate, acting for his widow, won the copyright infringement case against Prana Film Company. The court ordered all existing prints of “Nosferatu” burned, but one purported print of the film had already been distributed around the world. This print was duplicated over the years, kept alive by a cult following of viewers, making it an early example of a cult film. The film is regarded as one of the most foreboding and influential horror films in the history of cinema- a classic.

Leave a Reply