For this week’s film, I chose to watch Nosferatu, directed by F.W. Murnau. The main reason I wanted to watch this older film was because I’d often seen small clips of this film (usually of the vampire character) in other films. Therefore, I was intrigued by these clips and often wondered what the film was about. This film definitely had many expressionist techniques, and it was an interesting film.
One expressionist technique used in this film was the use of lighting. In the beginning of the film, the lighting is bright and everyone seems happy. There are scenes of Nina smiling, and many shots of the beautiful outdoor landscapes and flowers, etc. However, toward the end of the movie, there is a sense of doom and fright as the vampire invades the town. Most of these scenes take place at night or inside of poorly light houses. The home of Nosferatu was also dark and decayed.
Furthermore, shadows are used to express a sense of terror and impending doom. This is used most dramatically at the end, when the vampire’s shadow is shown climbing up the stairs, and then again as his shadow is cast over Nina’s body, as he approaches to drink her blood.
Another important expressionist technique was the grotesque, repulsive appearance of the vampire. Vampires we see today are not portrayed in the way Murnau expressed the Nosferatu in this film. The Nosferatu was extraordinarily tall and gaunt. His nose and fingers were long, and his ears long and pointy. His very appearance was that of decay and death—an important theme used in expressionist films.
In addition, we always see rats with him, which is very important to note since rats are the source of pestilence and death, especially during this time period when the plague was prevalent. This is something the audience in this period would have immediately connected.
Wherever the Nosferatu ventured, he plagued his surroundings. For instance, as he is sailing on the Baltic, every crewmember of the boat dies, and when he enters Wisborg, members of the town are struck with terror and death. But when he dies at the end, everything seems to return back to normal.
Finally, action shots are used in varying speeds to create a supernatural effect for the Nosferatu, and this helps to drive the narrative. For example, when Harker comes to the castle, he is greeted by a phantom. The carriage ride is in fast motion, demonstrating the supernatural “aura” of the area he has just entered. Although this is a silent film, the music also adds to this sense of supernaturalism and terror. When Nosferatu’s scenes appear, the music switches to a very eerie sound of organ playing.
In conclusion, this film used many interesting expressionist techniques. I did find this film somewhat harder to analyze with the use of expressionism, and I do think that realism was a bit easier to analyze. However, it was interesting seeing a film that focused more on interior reality rather than exterior reality.