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Shadow of the Vampire

Promotional movie poster for the film
Directed by E. Elias Merhige
Produced by Nicolas Cage
Jeff Levine
Richard L. Johns
Jimmy de Brabant
Written by Steven A. Katz
Starring John Malkovich
Willem Dafoe
Udo Kier
Cary Elwes
Catherine McCormack
Eddie Izzard
John Aden Gillet
Music by Dan Jones
Editing by Chris Wyatt
Distributed by Lions Gate
Release date(s) France:
May 15, 2000 (premiere at Cannes)
United States:
29 December 2000 (limited)
Running time 92 min
Language English
Budget $8,000,000 (estimated)

Shadow of the Vampire (2000) is an American horror film directed by E. Elias Merhige and written by Steven A. Katz, and starring John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe and Udo Kier. The film is a fictionalized account of the making of the classic vampire film Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, directed by F. W. Murnau, in which the film crew begin to suspect that their lead actor is not all that he seems. The film borrows the techniques of silent films, including the use of intertitles to explain elided action and iris lenses.[1] The scenes of Nosferatu being filmed are shot in black and white.

Contents

Plot

The film is set in 1922. German director F. W. Murnau takes his Berlin-based cast and crew on-location in Czechoslovakia and Poland in order to shoot Nosferatu , an unauthorized version of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula. He informs them that the person playing the part of the vampire Count Orlok, an obscure German theater performer named Max Schreck, is a highly professional method actor, but in order to involve himself fully in his character, he will only appear among the cast and crew in full make-up and character. (The real life Schreck was a German stage and film actor who appeared in several movies, including Die Finanzen des Grossherzogs.)

The main setting is an old castle in Czechoslovakia. Schreck is there waiting for the filming team, and his appearance and behavior are truly disquieting. The cameraman soon starts feeling terrorized and sick, and has to be taken away and replaced. The other main actor, Gustav, is frightened of Schreck, but then convinces himself that Schreck is simply a very good actor.

On one occasion, two members of the crew are sharing a drink under the stars, and Schreck approaches. They invite him to join them, and Schreck drinks with them. Jokingly they ask about his vampirism and Schreck tells them of his history as a vampire, centuries old. When questioned, he tells the crew that he is so old, he cannot remember how he became a vampire, and cannot create more of his own kind. A bat flies by and Schreck catches it with a quick hand and bites it, ecstatically sucking blood from its body. The others are left impressed by what they still assume is talented acting.

As it turns out, Schreck is a true vampire, and Murnau has made a deal with him in order to make his film absolutely realistic. Schreck has been promised the main actress Greta Schroeder as a prize, provided he fulfills his role until the end of the filming. But the vampire is frequently uncooperative until eventually the entire production, stranded on an island in the North Sea, is at his mercy.

In the end, Schreck kills Greta Schroeder and the crew before being exposed to sunlight and dying, while Murnau, who has now lost his mind, finishes the film.

Production and financing

The film's working title was Burned to Light, but the director E. Elias Merhige decided to change the name of the film when Willem Dafoe asked, "Who's Ed?"; the actor thought the title was Burn Ed to Light.[2]

The film was produced by Nicolas Cage's Saturn Films. Members of the online community "The HollyWood Stock Exchange" were able to donate a small sum towards the film's production, in exchange for listing their name on the DVD release of the film as "Virtual producers."

Reception

Critical reaction to Shadow of the Vampire has been mostly positive, with the film earning a rating of 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.[3] Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ stars out of 4, writing that "director E. Elias Merhige and his writer, Steven Katz, do two things at the same time. They make a vampire movie of their own, and they tell a backstage story about the measures that a director will take to realize his vision", and that Dafoe "embodies the Schreck of Nosferatu so uncannily that when real scenes from the silent classic are slipped into the frame, we don't notice a difference."[4] Ebert later placed the film on his list of "The Best 10 Movies of 2000", writing of Dafoe's "astonishing performance" and of the film, "Avoiding the pitfall of irony; it plays the material straight, which is truly scary."[5]

Cast

Awards

Shadow of the Vampire won several awards:

Willem Dafoe was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

References

External links

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