If you’re like me, then you must hate when people act like they’re too good for a 1922 silent film. Are they too lazy to read dialogue cards? Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror is what I’m talking about. There are other amazing silent films but Nosferatu is the one up for discussion right now. It’s one of the many godfathers of horror and vampire films. Nosferatu is not the first vampire film but it is the first unofficial “Dracula” adaptation and the first genuine vampire movie.
The first actual vampire film that I can think of is The Vampire from 1913. The House of the Devil though, from 1896, contains many themes that were seen in later vampire films.
Directed by German director F.W. Murnau, Nosferatu is an unauthorized adaptation of Stoker’s novel that stars Max Schreck as the mysterious aristocrat Count Orlok. The story follows Stoker’s novel with slight deviations including name changes on account of copyright problems. Dracula became Orlok, the word “vampire” was replaced with “Nosferatu”, and Jonathan and Mina Harker became Thomas and Ellen Hutter. Besides for its story, the film is most famous for its emaciated, balding, and undead image of the Count. The image lives on and often appears in other vampire films such as What We Do in the Shadows and the miniseries Salem’s Lot.
A modern Nosferatu, two remakes
Everything is getting a remake these days so I guess it’s not surprising that Nosferatu is among them. There were already numerous attempts to properly remake it. There’s Werner Herzog’s shot-by-shot 1979 color remake, Nosferatu the Vampyre, followed by Nosferatu: The First Vampire, a 1998 TV movie. The most notable one is probably Shadow of the Vampire, a retelling of the 1922 classic starring Willem Dafoe as Max Schreck.
Apparently, a new remake has been in progress since July 2015. I had no idea! Every other major remake gets constant updates but not poor Orlok. The remake was announced with Robert Eggers, director of The Witch, on board to both write and direct. At the time Nosferatu was going to be his second film.
“It feels ugly and blasphemous and egomaniacal and disgusting for a filmmaker in my place to do Nosferatu next. I was really planning on waiting a while, but that’s how fate shook out.”Eggers on the IndieWire podcast
The project was put on hold for The Lighthouse but Eggers is still planning on making it. In October 2019, he confirmed that Nosferatu is still in development and will be broader than his previous two films. Despite the freedom to now make Nosferatu a proper “Dracula” movie, Eggers wishes to keep the two separate, considering Nosferatu to be closer to the folk vampire.
“The vampire played by Max Schreck is a combination of the folk vampire, of the literary vampire that actually has its roots in England before Germany, and also [has roots in] Albin Grau, the producer/production designer’s occultist theories on vampires.”
So he’s not a traditional folk vampire but it’s much closer to that than Stoker, even though obviously Stoker is using a lot of folklore that he’s researched to create his vampire,” Eggers continues. “But Dracula is finally much more an extension of the literary vampire that was started by John Polidori, based on Byron.”From Bloody Disgusting
Eggers also expressed interest in having Dafoe replay the character and have him play alongside Anya Taylor-Joy.
David Lee Fisher
As it turns out Eggers is not the only guy remaking Nosferatu. Why do we need two so close together? Who knows. This other adaptation is apparently in the care of David Lee Fisher and is starring Doug Jones. Set as a “reimagining”, Fisher’s adaptation was announced in 2004 and then seemingly disappeared. There was no news about the project until 2017 when an article on EW revealed that Jones will still play the iconic vampire.
Even though two are in progress, the one with Eggers appears to be the only one getting any attention. I know little to nothing about Fisher’s. Trying to find out anything about these films is like performing surgery on yourself. Impossible, irritating, and painful.