Sets and location “The uncanny atmosphere of the film derives from the way thatthe naturalistic is subverted by the surreal.” An excessive visual style and a focus on the morbid side of human life
Arches The repeated use of arches and curves of the arches adds visual intensity to scenes by framing them and guiding our eyes towards the characters. The bridges and doorways symbolically emphasise that a character is passing from one psychological state to another – passing in and out of the subconscious
Stairs Stairs involve transitions in space and visually highlight important narrative moments; they dramatise psychological ‘ascents’ and ‘descents’ Consider how many ‘ascents’ and ‘descents’ we see in the film...
Costume, make-up and performance Expressionist use of make up on Knock and Nosferatu to suggest the uncanny. Their movements seem to obey secret forces. All performances of all characters are exaggerated to relate to the subjective emotions of the characters.
Cinematography Camera does not move – rather Murnau relied on different camera set ups, varying shot size and angles, lighting and the careful staging of the action in space. Scenes are constructed from relatively short shots – edited together so actions flow smoothly How do these techniques compare to those displayed in ‘Cabinet’?
Expressive camera angles Many extreme low angle shots are used to give characters (Nosferatu/Orlok) and settings (castle) intimidating providence. The angle highlights the ship’s rigging, echoing the spider web in which we have seen Knock’s cell shortly before.
Expressive camera angles... High angle shots are also to expressive effect When Ellen looks from her window the angle accentuates the narrowness of the streets and the inhabitants are victims of the plague
Composition Space seems to breath (open and close) as there is an oscillation between shallow scenes and scenes of depth. Sometimes shots have obstacles, frames, recesses, windows etc. To make the composition multi-layered = film is a labyrinth.
Lighting Film begins in sunlight and enters in a sinister shadow world as the coachman takes Hutter to Orlok. Murnau’s semiotic use of light and shadow is demonstrated throughout the film. The shadow is expressive of Nosferatu’s power over the characters and his embodiment of Jung’s shadow archetype – the darker/evil side of the human personality.
Editing and montage Straight cuts and fade to black to show a transition to another place or time Widely used technique of iris-in iris-out Parallel editing is used to great effect – to show a psychic connection between characters Can you describe several instances in which this technique was used? Are there examples of intellectual montage – where A+B=C and not AB
Effects Accelerated motion Superimposition Stop motion Use of negative What was the purpose of these techniques?
Inter-titles / sound 75 inter-titles in total Important to our understanding of the narrative The absence of diegetic sound contributes to the film’s other-worldly atmosphere Interesting to note that the film does evoke sounds – the chiming of the clock, the breaking of the waves
Influence Regarded as a horror classic Salem’s Lot (Tobe Hooper) In Scream 2, Casey watches Nosferatu on a late-night TV. Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula developed in the way in which the Count’s shadow takes on independent life The odd angles and unusual compositions became known as the German style and were widely imitated
Sociological readings Did the films pave the way for Nazism? Kracauer saw German films of the Weimar era as dark anticipations of the horrors to come – the ‘zietgeist’ in 1920s Germany. An exercise in zenophobia – as anti- semitic Ellen represents the German soul at the mercy of the property acquiring Jew vampire
Kracauer Kracauer never allowed for the possibility that a film might have an alternative reading or that audiences might read films in different ways. It is too simplistic to relate the films to the anti- semitism that brought Hitler to power as there were so many other factors. In addition – expressionist films were targeted at an intellectual elite rather than the German public who enjoyed romantic comedies, crime thrillers etc.
Themes The film does, however, portray a threat from outside, a threat from the East. Death, disease, social instability and disrupted relationships were rife. The streets and hospitals of Berlin must have contained figures as hocking as Orlok with ruined faces and near death looks.
Themes Marx used the figure of the vampire to dramatise exploitation. Nosferatu can be seen as a critical metaphor for how humanity had been bled dry by war and an aristocratic military elite
Psychological readings Horror conventions – concerned with repressed sexual desires and obsession with death Descent myth – characters who journey from innocence to a terrible underlying reality which either destroys them or leaves them wiser. Nosferatu as ‘Id’ – the unconscious side. The arches as trying to invoke the forces of repression but fail to contain the ‘under-nature’ of mankind.
Psychoanalytical Nosferatu = phallic Arches = vagina Shadow travels up Ellen’s body and she clutches her breast – orgasm = ‘little death’ in French The film is considered darkly erotic – but we must not let such interpretations spiral out of control