The German film from 1922 that came to the U.S. in 1929, “Nosferatu ”, directed by F.W. Murnau, produced by Enrico Dieckmann and Albin Grau (also known as Prana Film), and screen written by Henrik Galeen, shows women as passive and frail victims because of the weak gestures, little dialogue, and idea that women must be protected and watched over. The movie showed Max Schreck as Count Orlok, Gustav von Wangenheim as Hutter, Greta Schroeder as Ellen, Georg H. Schnell as Harding, Ruth Landshoff as Ruth, Gustav Botz as Professor Sievers, Alexander Granach as Knock, and John Gottowt as Professor Bulwer.
Nosferatu was based on the novel, “Dracula,” written by Bram Stoker which was a folklore about vampires. In 1916, while serving in Serbia during World War I, producer Albin Grau spoke with local farmers about the lore – vampires- and set off to create a movie about it. The team of the film, “Nosferatu”, did not have a license for the adaptation of the novel, Dracula, because Stoker’s widow, Florence Stoker, refused to sell him the rights, but that did not stop Albin Grau from wanting to produce the film anyways. To attempt to avoid a lawsuit, there were several changes implemented in the film. However, a few changes were not enough because the film was sued for infringement and the court ordered all copies of Nosferatu to be destroyed. Luckily, one copy was saved and made its way to the United States. By the time it got there, the film was able to be viewed since Dracula was already in the public domain there.The film slowly made an audience and was considered a horror film classic by the 1960s.
The film did not win any awards when it was released however it did win an award and was nominated twice in the 21st century. It was nominated for the Saturn Award for the Best DVD/Blu-Ray Special Edition Release by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films in 2014, nominated for Restoration of the Year by the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards in 2002, and won the OFTA Film Hall of Fame for Motion Picture by the Online Film & Television Association in 2010 (“Awards”). “Nosferatu” had such a huge impact that the film was able to set the template and rules for other films to follow and even changed some of the lore of vampires.
The film, although a silent film, included mostly men and a few women, however only one women had lines. The women were depicted as frail victims. When Hutter leaves for business, he leaves his wife, Ellen, to be watched by his neighbors as if she needed to protected and watched over by a man. Also, according to the “legend” in the film, the only way to defeat a vampire was the blood of a woman sacrifice which characterizes females as innocent and frail victims. The women also had gestures that made them seem passive and weak. For example, whenever a woman was in distress she would fall in the arms of a strong man.
Taylor Bridges in the History 110 WordPress group, mentioned that there was a book, The Feminine Mystique, that was a “critical look into the lives of women in the 1920s. Betty Friedan, the author, wanted to discover why women were so dissatisfied despite their seemingly ideal lifestyles. She concluded that women wanted their own identity, not just the one that comes as a pair with her husband’s, and that the way to do this was to have a career ” (Bridges). Bridges also asserted that the book “taught women that they could be their own person with their own identity all to themselves. Because of this, more and more women began to notice other ways in which they were treated unfairly in society and decided to fight for their rights” (Bridges).
Although the film industry allowed upward mobility for women by providing them a job and a chance of independence, Karen Sternheimer claims that “rather than providing a singular message about women’s mobility, celebrity stories reflect conflicting ideas about women: at some times promoting their independence—particularly during World War II—and at other times emphasizing more traditional roles, as many stories did after the war ended” (Sternheimer 4).
Although the book, “Dracula” was written in 1897, the movie “Nosferatu” had some changes (that were mostly made to avoid lawsuit) which could also relate to the historical events that were occuring at the time such as World War I and the tough life of the working class. The sucking of blood represents capitalism such that the elite are sucking the life out of the working class. Sternheimer asserts that “not only were working-class immigrants the first movie patrons, but early films frequently featured pro-labor themes that pitted the underdog against the stuffy elite, and included themes frequently sympathetic to the plight of workers” (Sternheimer 34). Life was hard for the working class in the early 20th century because more than half of the population lived in poverty, the majority of the people did not have the education that they needed, food was scarce, and a lot of families relied on their children to help with the household income to survive. The dreaded idea of the “plague” in the film is also symbolic of the anxieties that the people may have had of the spread of the war. Life was already hard for the people and the war put an extra burden and hardship on them. The people wanted the war to be over and they feared that the spread of the war would make it last longer.
The film, “Nosferatu,” is a classic horror film that gave its own adaptations of the vampire folklore, “Dracula,” in which the differences can still be seen today in modern vampires. The film was a representative of its time by expressing the symbolism of the anxieties of the working class and fear of the spread of war, as well as producing the stereotype of a frail women in distress.
Photo Sources in order:
“Awards.” IMDb, IMDb.com, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0013442/awards.
Bailey, Jonathan. “Dracula vs. Nosferatu: A True Copyright Horror Story.” Plagiarism
Today, Plagiarism Today, 17 Oct. 2011, http://www.plagiarismtoday.com.
Bridges, Taylor. “The Feminine Mystique.” HIST 110 Section 1 Group 4, WordPress , 22 Apr. 2015, hist110section1group4.wordpress.com/page/1/.
F.W. Murnau, Prana Film , and Henrick Galeen . “Nosferatu.” Kanopy ,
Sternheimer, Karen. Celebrity Culture and the American Dream: Stardom and Mobility.