Link to Movie: https://sdsu.kanopy.com/video/nosferatu-0
In showing the ignorant financial behavior of Americans during the 1920’s, the German horror film Nosferatu, directed by F.W. Murnau, Enrico Dieckmann and Albin Grau, and screenplay by Henrik Galeen, starring Max Schreck and Greta Schroder, shows how American culture encourages people to blindly follow the American Dream.
Initially, the film is a foreshadowing to Americans of the dire financial situation to come to them (The Great Depression) because of the portrayal of a young man, Thomas Hutter, ignoring the advice of all those around him to not go to Count Orlok’s castle. Hutter represents Americans spending frivolously, unaware of the financial bubble created by buying items on credit in the Roaring Twenties that “previously [were] only available for cash” (Sternheimer 57). Those warning him represent the Germans, who by the 1920’s had experienced their own financial destruction due to trade blockades and reparations they had to pay because of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.
The movie goes even further to imply how the credit bubble being formed in the 1920’s is being caused by excess spending and increased independence of many women. During the 1920’s, there was propaganda warning men against gold diggers, such as “A 1927 Motion Picture Classic Article, ‘The Seven Ages of a Gold-Digger,’ [which] portrays women as materialistic from birth to old age” (Sternheimer 68). In addition, “fan magazine articles warned of the dangers of being too independent” (Sternheimer 68). These types of advertisements implied that the more financial independence women gained, the more money they would spend. To add, Nosferatu’s appearance, specifically his long fingers, represent how certain female’s, specifically gold diggers’, can snatch money away from unsuspecting young men, such as Hutter. Nosferatu’s ability to suck blood out of his victims represents how too much female financial independence will lead to the financial stability being sucked out of the American economy. And the fact that men and women are shown as victims of Nosferatu demonstrates how an impending financial collapse would affect all Americans.
Since the frivolous spending of females is a result of the booming economy and the values of the American Dream that encourage social mobility, it is implied that American culture leads people to blindly spend money in pursuit of becoming rich and gaining higher social status.
And even though “the press reported extensively on Nosferatu and its premiere […] there was also occasional criticism that the technical perfection and clarity of the images did not fit the horror theme” (Wikipedia). To add, the production company for the film, Prana Film, “declared bankruptcy after Stoker’s estate, acting for his widow, Florence Stoker, sued for copyright infringement and won” causing the court to order the burning of all copies of the film (Wikipedia). This criticism and lawsuit inhibited the effect of the film, therefore discouraging the message about the American Dream from being sent to a significant number of Americans. As a result, the Great Depression occurred and Americans had to learn the hard way that good economic times do not last forever.
- History.com Staff. “Treaty of Versailles.” History.com, A+E Networks, 2009, http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/treaty-of-versailles.
- “Nosferatu.” Wikipedia, 8 September 2002, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nosferatu#Reception_and_legacy.
- Sternheimer, Karen. Celebrity Culture and the American Dream. New York, Routledge, 2015.