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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens

A promotional film poster
Directed by F. W. Murnau
Produced by Enrico Dieckmann
Albin Grau
Written by Bram Stoker
Henrik Galeen
Starring Max Schreck
Gustav von Wangenheim
Greta Schröder
Alexander Granach
Ruth Landshoff
Cinematography Fritz Arno Wagner
Günther Krampf
Distributed by Film Arts Guild
Release date(s) Germany 4 March 1922
USA 3 June 1929
Running time 94 min.
Country Germany
Language Silent film
German intertitles

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (translated as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror; also known as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Terror or simply Nosferatu) is a German Expressionist vampire horror film, directed by F. W. Murnau, starring Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok. The film, shot in 1921 and released in 1922, was in essence an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to the novel (for instance, "vampire" became "Nosferatu" and "Count Dracula" became "Count Orlok". At least one English language print features title cards with the actual names from Stoker's novel including "Count Dracula").



Thomas Hutter (Jonathan Harker in Stoker's novel) lives in the fictitious German city of Wisborg. His employer, Knock, sends Hutter to Transylvania to visit a new client named Orlok. Hutter entrusts his loving wife Ellen to his good friend Harding and Harding's sister Ruth, before embarking on his long journey.

Nearing his destination, Hutter stays at an inn, where the locals become frightened by his mere mention of Orlok's name and discourage him from traveling to his castle at night. In his room, Hutter finds a book, The Book of the Vampires, which he peruses before falling asleep.

Max Schreck as Count Orlok in a promotional photo

Late the next day, Hutter is welcomed at the castle by Count Orlok himself. While Hutter has a late dinner, Orlok reads a letter. When Hutter cuts his thumb, Orlok tries to suck the blood out of the wound, but his repulsed guest pulls his hand away. Hutter then falls asleep in the parlor.

He wakes up to an empty castle and notices fresh punctures on his neck, which he attributes to mosquitoes. That night, Orlok signs the documents to purchase the house across from Hutter's own home. Orlok sees Hutter's miniature portrait of his wife and admires her beautiful neck. Reexamining The Book of the Vampires, Hutter starts to suspect that Orlok is Nosferatu, the "Bird of Death". He cowers in his room as midnight approaches, but there is no way to bar the door. The door opens by itself and Orlok enters, his true nature finally revealed. At the same time, Ellen sleepwalks and screams for Hutter. She is somehow heard by Orlok, who leaves Hutter untouched.

The next day, Hutter explores the castle. In its crypt, he finds the coffin in which Orlok is resting dormant. Horrified, he dashes back to his room. From the window, he sees Orlok piling up coffins on a coach and climbing into the last one before the coach departs. Hutter escapes the castle through the window, but falls unconscious when he reaches the ground. He is taken to a hospital. When he is sufficiently recovered, Hutter hurries home.

Meanwhile, the coffins are shipped down river on a raft. They are transferred to a schooner, but not before one is opened by the crew. Inside, they find soil and rats.

Under the long-distance influence of Orlok, Knock starts behaving oddly and is confined to a psychiatric ward. Later, Knock steals a newspaper, which tells of an outbreak of an unknown plague spreading down the coast of the Black Sea. Many people are dying, with odd marks on their necks. Knock rejoices.

The sailors on the ship get sick one by one; soon all but the captain and first mate are dead. Suspecting the truth, the first mate goes below to destroy the coffins. However, Orlok awakens and the horrified sailor jumps into the sea. Unaware of his danger, the captain becomes Orlok's latest victim.

When the ship arrives in Wisborg, Orlok leaves unobserved, carrying one of his coffins. (A passage in The Book of the Vampires reveals that the source of a vampire's power is the soil in which he was buried.) He moves into the house he purchased. The next morning, when the ship is inspected, the captain is found dead. After examining the logbook, the doctors assume they are dealing with the plague. The town is stricken with panic.

An iconic scene

Hutter returns home. Ellen reads The Book of Vampires, despite his injunction not to, and learns how to kill a vampire: a woman pure in heart must willingly give her blood to him, so that he loses track of time until the cock's first crowing.

There are many deaths in the town. The residents chase Knock, who has escaped after murdering the warden, mistaking him for a vampire.

Orlok stares from his window at the sleeping Ellen. She opens her window to invite him in, but faints. When Hutter revives her, she sends him to fetch Professor Bulwer. After he leaves, Orlok comes in. He becomes so engrossed drinking her blood, he forgets about the coming day. A rooster crows and Orlok vanishes in a bit of smoke as he tries to flee. Ellen lives just long enough to be embraced by her grief-stricken husband. The last image of the movie is of Orlok's ruined castle in the Carpathian Mountains.


Origin and publication history

Hutter's departure from Wisborg was filmed in Heiligen-Geist-Kirche's yard in Wismar; this photograph is from 1970.

Screenplay and pre-production

Nosferatu was the first and only production of Prana Film,[1] founded in 1921 by Enrico Dieckmann and Albin Grau. Grau had the idea to shoot a vampire film; the inspiration arose from Grau's war experience: in the winter of 1916, a Serbian farmer told him that his father was a vampire and one of the Undead.[2]

Diekmann and Grau gave Henrik Galeen the task to write a screenplay inspired from Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, despite Prana Film not having obtained the film rights. Galeen was an experienced specialist in Dark romanticism; he had already worked on Der Student von Prag (The Student of Prague) in 1913, and the screenplay for Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came into the World) (1920). Galeen set the story in a fictional north German harbour town named Wisborg and changed the character names. He added the idea of the vampire bringing the plague to Wisborg via rats on the ship. He left out the Van Helsing vampire hunter character. Galeen's Expressionist style[3] screenplay was poetically rhythmic, without being so dismembered as other books influenced by literary Expressionism, such as those by Carl Mayer. Lotte Eisner described Galeen's screenplay as "voll Poesie, voll Rhythmus" ("full of poetry, full of rhythm").[4]


This Lübecker Salzspeicher served as the set for Orlok's house in Wisborg.

Filming began in July 1921, with exterior shots in Wismar.[5] A take from Marienkirche's tower over Wismar marketplace with the Wasserkunst Wismar served as the establishing shot for the Wisborg scene. Other locations were the Wassertor, the Heiligen-Geist-Kirche yard and the harbour. In Lübeck, the abandoned Salzspeicher served as Nosferatu's new Wisborg house. Further exterior shots followed in Lauenburg,[5] Rostock[5] and on Sylt. The film team travelled to the Carpathian Mountains, where Orava Castle[5] served as backdrop for Orlok's half-ruined castle. Nearby locations also served: Hutter's stay at Dolný Kubín;[5] the river journey with the coffins filmed on the Váh River; and the panoramas of the High Tatras mountain range. The team filmed interior shots at the JOFA studio in Berlin's Johannisthal locality.[5] and further exteriors in the Tegel forest.[5] Parts of the film set in Transylvania were also shot in Slovakia.

For cost reasons, cameraman Fritz Arno Wagner only had one camera available, and therefore there was only one original negative.[6] The director followed Galeen's screenplay carefully, following handwritten instructions on camera positioning, lighting, and related matters.[7] Nevertheless Murnau completely rewrote 12 pages of the script, as Galeen's text was missing from the director's working script.[8] This concerned the last scene of the film, in which Ellen sacrifices herself and the vampire dies in the first rays of the Sun.[9][10] Murnau prepared carefully; there were sketches that were to correspond exactly to each filmed scene, and he used a metronome to control the pace of the acting.[11]

Premiere and theatre distribution

The Marmorsaal (marble hall) in the Berlin Zoological Garden, here shown in a 1900 postcard, was where Nosferatu premiered.

Shortly before the premiere, an advertisement campaign was placed in issue 21 of the magazine Bühne und Film, with a summary, scene and work photographs, production reports and essays including a treatment on vampirism by Albin Grau.[12] Nosferatu's preview premiered on 4 March 1922 in the Marmorsaal of the Berlin Zoological Garden.[5][8] This was planned as a large society evening entitled Das Fest des Nosferatu (Festival of Nosferatu), and guests were asked to arrive dressed in Biedermeier costume.[8] The cinema premiere itself took place on 15 March 1922 at Berlin's Primus-Palast.[5]

Contemporary critique

The Premiere reviewers generally praised the film with some occasionally complaining that the technically perfect and brightly-lit images detracted from the unworldly horror theme.[13] Der Film, a Berlin film magazine, praised the technical quality and the believability of Schreck's portrayal of the vampire, but also felt that his form would have had a greater effect had it been shown more in silhouette.[14]

Deviations from the novel

The story of Nosferatu is similar to that of Dracula and retains the core characters—Jonathan and Mina Harker, the Count, etc.—but omits many of the secondary players, such as Arthur and Quincey, and changes all of the character's names (although in some recent releases of this film, which is now in the public domain in the United States but not in most European states, the written dialog screens have been changed to use the Dracula versions of the names). The setting has been transferred from England in the 1890s to Germany in 1838.

In contrast to Dracula, Orlok does not create other vampires, but kills his victims, causing the townfolk to blame the plague, which ravages the city. Also, Orlok must sleep by day, as sunlight would kill him. The ending is also substantially different from that of Dracula. The count is ultimately destroyed at sunrise when the "Mina" character sacrifices herself to him. The town called "Wisborg" in the film is in fact a mix of Wismar and Lübeck.[15]


This was the first and last Prana Film; the company declared bankruptcy after Bram Stoker's estate, acting for his widow, Florence Stoker, sued for copyright infringement and won. The court ordered all existing prints of Nosferatu destroyed, but copies of the film had already been distributed around the world. These prints were then copied over the years, helping Nosferatu gain its current reputation as one of the greatest movie adaptations of the vampire legend.

With the influence of producer and production designer Albin Grau, the film established one of two main depictions of film vampires. The "Nosferatu-type" is a living corpse with rodent features (especially elongated fingernails and incisors), associated with rats and plague, and neither charming nor erotic but rather totally repugnant. The victims usually die and are not turned into vampires themselves. The more common archetype is the "Dracula-type" (established by Bela Lugosi's version of Dracula and perpetuated by Christopher Lee), a charming aristocrat adept at seduction and whose bite turns his victims into new vampires.

A more universal effect of the film is less obvious: the ending of Nosferatu single-handedly created the concept that vampires can be physically harmed by sunlight. While this was a common element of many other mythical creatures, pre-Nosferatu vampires disliked but could endure daylight (for instance, a part in the original Dracula novel shows its count in a London street by day). Since Nosferatu's release, the vampire legends have quickly incorporated the idea of fearing, or being destroyed by, the sun.

Murnau's Nosferatu is in the public domain in the United States but not in Germany, and copies of the movie are widely available on video (usually as poorly transferred, faded, scratched video copies that are often scorned by enthusiasts). However, pristine restored editions of the film have also been made available, and are also readily accessible to the public.

The movie has received not only a strong cult following, but also has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, including being cited as the best of all the adaptations of Dracula. On it receive a "Certified Fresh" label, holding a 98 percent "fresh" rating based on 46 reviews.

Derivative works

Aaron Copland's 1922 ballet Grohg (unpublished and unpremiered until 1992) used Nosferatu as the physical model for the lead character and roughly follows the storyline.

Werner Herzog's 1979 homage to Nosferatu, Nosferatu the Vampyre starred Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula, not Orlok. A sequel to Herzog's film called Vampire in Venice starred Kinski, this time as Nosferatu, and Christopher Plummer as Paris Catalano. In 1998, Wayne Keeley wrote and directed Nosferatu: The First Vampire, in which the original film was remastered to a soundtrack by Type O Negative and hosted by David Carradine. A 2000 Hollywood movie called Shadow of the Vampire told a secret history of the making of Nosferatu, imagining that actor Max Schreck (played by Willem Dafoe) was actually a genuine vampire, and that director F. W. Murnau (John Malkovich) was complicit in hiring the creature for the purpose of realism.

See also


  1. ^ ChiaroScuro quoting Thomas Elsaesser
  2. ^ Christiane Mückenberger; Günther Dahlke; Günter Karl (Hrsg.) (1993), "Nosferatu" (in German), Deutsche Spielfilme von den Anfängen bis 1933, Berlin: Henschel Verlag, pp. 71, ISBN 3-89487-009-5 
  3. ^ Roger Manvell, Henrik Galeen - Films as writer:, Other films:, Film Reference,, retrieved 2009-04-23 
  4. ^ Eisner 1967, page 27
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i ChiaroScuro
  6. ^ Prinzler page 222: Luciano Berriatúa and Camille Blot in section: Zur Überlieferung der Filme. Then it was usual to use at least two cameras in parallel to maximise the number of copies for distribution. One negative would serve for local use and another for foreign distribution.
  7. ^ Editors of German Wikipedia citing Eisner 1967 page 27
  8. ^ a b c Editors of German Wikipedia
  9. ^ Editors of German Wikipedia citing Eisner 1967 page 28 Since vampires dying in daylight appears neither in Stoker's work nor in Galeen's script, this concept has been solely attributed to Murnau.
  10. ^ Michael Koller (July 2000), "Nosferatu", Issue 8, July–Aug 2000 (senses of cinema),, retrieved 2009-04-23 
  11. ^ Editors of German Wikipedia citing Grafe page 117
  12. ^ Editors of German Wikipedia citing Eisner page 60
  13. ^ Prinzler p. 131. Bilder ... sehr schön, sehr klar, sehr scharf. Jedoch: Was bei anderen, wirklichkeitstreuen Filmen ein Vorteil ist, muß bei einem Werk aus der Unwirklichkeit gegenteilig bewertet werden.
  14. ^ (Berlin) vol. 7, no. 11, 12 Mar 1922, p. 45
  15. ^ Ashbury, Roy (2001-11-05). Nosferatu (1st ed.). Pearson Education. pp. 41. 


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Nosferatu is a 1922 German expressionist vampire horror film by the director F. W. Murnau. The screenplay by Henrik Galeen is an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula.


The Book of the Vampires

  • And it was in 1443 that the first Nosferatu was born.
  • That name rings like the cry of a bird of prey. Never speak it aloud.....
  • Men do not always recognize the dangers that beasts can sense at certain times.
  • Nosferatu drinks the blood of the young, the blood necessary to his own existence.

Count Dracula

  • Blood! Your Precious Blood!
  • Let us chat together a moment, my friend! There are still several hours until dawn, and I have the whole day to sleep.
  • Is this your wife? What a lovely throat!

Dr. Van Helsing

  • Astonishing, isn't it, gentlemen? That plant is the Vampire of the vegetable kingdom.


  • We will go no further, sir. Not for a fotune!.
  • We will go no further. Here begins the land of phantoms.

Jonathan Harker/Thomas Hutter

  • [In the letter...] After my first night in this earth, I found two large bites on my neck From Mosquitoes? From Spiders? I don't know.

The Narrator

  • As the sun rose, Harker felt himself freed from the oppresions of the night.


  • Wait, Young man. You can't escape destiny by running away...


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also nosferatu



Possibly from a Romanian word for vampire. The term achieved popular currency through Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula and F. W. Murnau's 1925 German film Nosferatu. See also: Wikipedia's article on the etymology of the word (and the references therein).




Nosferatu (plural Nosferatu)

  1. vampire

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