(Review originally written at 14 April 2010)

It's basically impossible to remake a popular movie from the 1920's. The style of film-making used back then is so much different from the style of film-making that we are accustomed to now days and of course no sound or color got used. So how do you remake a movie from that time period faithfully, with keeping the same style and atmosphere and at the same time giving it a bit of a modern update as well for todays audience. Werner Herzog succeeded in this with "Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht", which is a remake of the other German classic movie "Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens", by F.W. Murnau.

It sounds like a weird and stupid idea to remake the 1922 "Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens" in the first place, not because it uses a very distinctive and old fashioned style of film-making but also because it was the first ever telling of the Bram Stoker Dracula story, that wasn't even an official one, due to copyright reasons. Therefore "Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens" was a movie that didn't used any of the names from the novel, so there were no Dracula, Renfield or Van Helsing ever present in that movie. It would therefore make much more sense to simply make a Dracula version of the novel on your own, like they did countless times over the years. Werner Herzog however picked the hard road and decided to give his take on the F.W. Murnau classic. He simply changed the names back to the original ones from the novel but in basically ever other aspect he remained very loyal to the 1922 interpretation of the novel. In other words a great and effective modern update.

Those who have seen the 1922 original will surely recognize some of the sequences within this movie. It uses some of the same set-ups and also the looks of the characters have changed very little. The count is still the most monstrous and ugly looking one and hardly the charming seducer that most people recognize him as in the American and other Hollywoodized interpretations of the story.

Klaus Kinski plays the character very much Max Schreck style, with as an only difference that he speaks out some dialog as well. But above all it's still a movie that is all about its visuals and atmosphere and in that essence the movie remains mostly faithful to the original.

It was still a bit weird though for me seeing this movie taking obviously place in the Netherlands for most of the time. It has nothing to do with the story and it probably got shot here for budgeting reasons and the facts that it was more authentically old and English-like looking than any German towns, of which some also mostly got destroyed for most part during WW II and rebuild with a more modern day look. As a result of that fact that the movie for most part got shot in the Netherlands, also a lot of quite well known Dutch actors show up in this, for all some very small roles.

A great movie to watch, especially if you have also seen the 1922 original.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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