Photo: Nosferatu Poster
Nosferatu was a symphony horror silent film released March 4, 1922 in German and was introduced to the United States on June 3, 1929. Directed by F. W. Muranu; produced by Enrico Dieckmann and Albin Grau; Screenplay by Henrik Galeen; and the film is based on Dracula by Bram Stoker without his permission. The theme of the film is folklore as it uses the majority of the plot from Dracula based off the Romanian folklore. Muranu tells us the story of Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) who is sent by his employer to visit a new client. Before Hutter visits this new client he says goodbye to his wife Ellen (Greta Schroder), who he leaves with his good friends. This client is Count Orlok (Max Schreck) who Hutter meets at the the counts estate after a few days of travel. During dinner Hutter cut his finger and Orlok tries to suck his blood. The next day he wakes up in a empty castle with a bite on his neck. That evening Orlok signs all the paperwork and sees a photo of Hutters wife and makes the comment of her having a “lovely neck”. After a series of events Orlok heads to Hutters village by sea filling caskets with rats causing a plague, this plague would reach Hutters village.Many people pass away by the plague and Ellen finds out her pure blood can distract Orlok long enough to destroy him. She leaves her window open to lure him in, she is bitten and it’s enough to distract Orlok before sunrise causing him to vanish. Ellen has enough strength to cry out for her husband before passing away. The next seen shows Orlak destroyed estate symbolising he is no longer a threat.
Photo: Count & Hutter
When it was released on 1922 in Germany the film did very well, despite the controversy with Stoker’s Dracula winning many awards. Notable enough the film would become a cult classic influencing film even today. In June 1929 the film debut in America. “By the 1920s the mythical “Hollywood” was born, a distinctly American fantasy, one that could be invented out of whole cloth in a region that was still largely undeveloped.” (Sternheimer, 32), as Hollywood was still gaining traction films were in demand. This is why I believe Nosferatu did well in America in its first few months. Four months later the great depression would hit possible slowing the films traction. The grate depression would effect both rich and poor causing a 25 percent unemployment rate, meaning many people would be looking for a way to put food on the table, rather than enjoying the pleasures of a film. Eventually due to copyright issues a majority of the films original content would be destroyed. As for awards in the United States not much is mention during its time of release, the film would receive awards decades late.
Nosferatu is a film that can be viewed by many lenses gender, culture, location/ geography, and identity to name a few. The lens I will focus on today will be that of gender, and how women are represented in the film and the roles they play. Nosferatu displays woman as damsel in distress, the women in the film are helpless and will cower at a dangerous situation. In the beginning of the film we see how his wife is expressing helplessness without her husband before he goes on his journey. Her husband also leaves his wife with two friends, viewing through the lens of gender a viewer would question if the director thinks a woman can’t stay alone without her husband. We see this is different scenes for example when Hutter stays at the inn, the local villagers warn him of a werewolf in the woods. When the film cuts to the werewolf, the very next scene is a group of women huddling together in fear. Ellen is also shown as a object sexuality multiple times, even Orlok the monster who causes terror and kills many people can not resist the succulent neck and beauty of Ellen. When Ellen is confronted by Orlok we see how she is scared, the scene is also sexualized with Orlok biting Ellen’s neck. “Suspension of pleasure over the
course of prolonged sessions of dramatic suffering, offers a particularly intense, almost parodic enactment of the classic melodramatic scenario of the passive and innocent female victim suffering at the hands of a leering villain.” (Williams,8). This scene has more than a few seconds on screen to where Williams statement is being proven, Ellen’s demise, while also sexual is being extended to express the suffering of female character.
After viewing the film through a gender lens, it clear that the movie still shared the cultural belief where women where helpless. Although American culture would take progressive steps in 1920 to ensure women the right to vote. Then again in 1923 by introducing the Equal rights amendment, saying men and women shall have equal rights through the United States. The tone in portraying women on film in the late 1920’s women would still be seen as these fragile, scared individuals who would need a strong male to protect them.
Director: F. W. Murnau
Writer(s): Henrik Galeen
Producer(s): Enrico Dieckmann, Albin Grau
Main Cast: Max, Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schroder, Alxander Granach
F. W. Murnau(Director). Nosfeatu [Video file]. Kino Lorber Edu. Retrieved July 19, 2018, from Kanopy.
Sternheimer, Karen. Celebrity Culture and the American Dream 2nd edition. 2015 Routledge.
Williams, Linda. Film Bodies: Gender Genre, and Excess, Film Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Summer, 1991), pp. 2-13. University of California Press
The last two photos where screenshotted from the film.:https://sdsu.kanopy.com/video/nosferatu-0