Take a Drink: for Werner Herzog’s trademark “holding on a shot until everyone is uncomfortable” scenes (God bless you, beautiful Bavarian Bastard!)
Take a Drink: anytime the Vampirism verges on a sexual fetish (again, Herzog… goddamn)
Drink a Shot: for Klaus Kinski’s Crazy Eyes
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
In 1979 filmmaker Werner Herzog set out to directly remake F.W. Murnau’s classic silent horror film. The story is much the same; Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz) ventures to Transylvania to broker a deal to sell property to Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski), who is interested in moving to the costal village of Wismar, Germany. Harker ignores the warnings from villagers regarding the count, determined as he is to make a significant sale for his firm. The Count is an enigmatic man, with a pale face, long, bony hands, and rat-like front teeth. While discussing the deal over dinner, the Count spots a picture of Harker’s wife Lucy, and immediately signs the deal upon learning the Count and Harker’s family will be neighbors. Harker discovers too late that the rumors from the village are true. Harker escapes, but not before the Count sets in motion his plans to move to Wismar, and to find Lucy.
Opening with ghastly footage of mummified remains, many with faces frozen in horror, set to the ambient music of Art-Rock band Popol Vuh, Nosferatu the Vampyre quickly establishes an eerie tone that never lets up. One of the greatest remakes in the history of horror cinema, director Werner Herzog beautifully re-captures the brooding creepiness of the 1922 film, while maintaining his own stamp of New German Cinema upon the film. The visuals combine call-backs to the original macabre masterwork, but are combined with Herzog’s own flair for nature and the bizarre. Like the makeup used on Max Schreck in the original film, the Vampire is designed to take on a rat-like appearance. Herzog uses this to expand upon the plague metaphor which the original movie hinted at. These sequences give an unearthly quality to the landscape of the film that creates a truly visual feast for horror fans.
No other actor other than the great madman that was Klaus Kinski could have played such a convincing vampire. Kinski departs almost completely from his typically intense roles in this rare turn towards subtlety. The quiet, brooding character that is Count Dracula is presented not as a villain per se, but a victim of an ancient curse, which has left him a weather-beaten husk. Count Dracula longs for companionship, and yet is compelled to feed, driven to near-insanity by this obsession. Moreover, Kinski’s Count Dracula is perhaps the first depiction of the count as a lustful and sexual being, turning the act of feeding on a woman’s blood into more than just a satisfaction of appetite.
Sexualized vampire movies had been made in the past, this film is notable for full-on fetishizing the vampire as a tragic killer who cannot help but satisfy his needs.
The pacing of Nosferatu is incredibly measured, to the point where it can drift into total oblivion. This is often useful in setting a deeply surreal and disturbing mood, but it does result in making the film a challenge for less patient audiences. It becomes particularly challenging in the sometimes confusing 2nd act, where the film’s story drifts from the original silent film into a plague allegory. This sequence rewards the patient on repeated viewings, but first time viewers unfamiliar with Herzog’s style will inevitably be thrown.
Werner Herzog the Terrific Teutonic Tyrant tantalizingly taunts and tenaciously transfixes terrified audiences.