Friday, June 4, 2010

Nosferatu--A German Classic

When friends tell me why they don't want to become a vampire (and this conversation happens with disturbing frequency) their argument is usually based on the idea that becoming a vampire isn't really "living" and they wouldn't want to trade regular living for being undead. To that I say, bah, flimshaw! What about when you're at your deathbed, with only days to live? Wouldn't you be happy to make the trade then?

I think of this as I saw last night's film, the 1922 silent German classic "Nosferatu", which was based off of the Bram Stoker novel, Dracula. The story had to be changed slightly, as well as the names, because the Stoker family wouldn't release the rights at the time. Little did the Stokers know, they're story would eventually be bastardized by 1995's "Dracula--Dead and Loving It!" bomb. But the 1922 film--starring the very creepy Max Schenk (who apparently needed very little makeup)--was excellent, worthy of the source material it sort of ripped off.

Being a silent film, you'd think it wouldn't convey the horror of the vampire, but you'd be wrong. You'd also be wrong to think that after this film was released the Germans could never come up with anything quite so creepy again! (10 years later the Nazis would take power. Eek!). Without the benefit of sound, the director has to put a lot more effort into imagery and setting, and it definitely shows. These aren't the sparkly vampires that today's tweens (and the future stewards of this country, which is why I'll be in El Salvador when everything goes to pot). This is full out, monstrous, long fingernail-claws, haunt your dreams vampire. This is the thing that if you ever saw it in your backyard at night you'd lose your lunch.

The theory goes that the vampire legend originated in medieval Europe ("medieval" being Latin for "partly evil") based on the characteristics of rabies victims. Since they didn't know what rabies were at the time, anyone bitten by a rabid bat would exhibit symptoms of avoiding light, causing paleness, and a feral quality of biting others. Plus, an aversion to deliciously pungent garlic. Plus, have you ever tried holding a mirror in front of a person with rabies? They have no reflection at all.

That said, it's a pretty solid legend, and has spawned some decent literature and film. Just keep those sparkly emo freaks away, we don't need that crap.

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