Eine Symphonie des Grauens
It’s in Spanish. I only learned a little of Spanish as I know much more German. Without trying to use a translator it says something along the lines of ‘Where have you been. Insult. Insult. And than something about her being at home working or something.’ Essentially he has a nagging wife.
Anyways the film is a silent symphony of horror. I have to start off by saying I both like and hate this film at the same time. Anyways, the film. The music we listened to didn’t work for me, which is largely due to the use of synthesizers. Now maybe if this were modern attempt at making a silent film or even if it was made in the 80’s using heavy synths would make sense, but I still can’t bring myself to see how they would work even than. Synths have their place in music, but unless this was a Rob Zombie remake of the film I don’t seem them working. Obviously this really irked me. Apart from that the music was ok. Being a silent film I expected it to help the film along a bit more. At times it felt like the accompanying music was a bit to jolly, not that the music was every exactly brihgt, but much brighter than needs to be used when someone’s getting killed. It worked in American Psycho but not here.
Another thing that irked me. The intertitles, also known as those title cards that popped up and told us what someone was saying or the narrator’s written thoughts. Again it’s a silent film, I’ve seen them before. Personally they were to long in regards to their onscreen time. I don’t need twenty seconds to read “Vampires come out at night in their shadows and feed of of blood as an elixir.” That was one of the longer titles used and there was a standard time used for all of them regardless of length. I can’t imagine someone needing that much time to read the cards. That being the case this was one of the things that made this movie drag. The intertitles were also annoying at time’s because they were lines that were pointless. The Venus fly trap, or whatever carnivorous plant it was. I’m pretty sure most people get the symbolism between it and a vampire, there’s no need to say “Like a vampire!” all the time. There were a number of instances like that which were to blatantly obvious and unneeded. If someone is actually unaware of what’s going on, than when the action finally takes place it will be revealed and all that more thrilling.
If a picture speaks a thousand words than a film should be mind blowing. At this time the film was most likely running around 24 frames per second. I’m not a math person, but that number of still images that are compiled together to create movies is mind blowing. At this point were upwards of fifty frames per second and the technology is even more confusing with how the frames are combined. Going back to the twenties films are edited by hand. That means some poor schmuck is sitting there looking at every individual still. If they need to remove a few stills they cut the the film (that brown/black spindly stuff) and glue the next frame where the others were cut. Think about that when you use iMovie to edit your projects. That being the case a lot of old films are jumpy. You can usually tell where the film was cut because the whole image tends to jump. In this particular motion picture that jumpiness was capitalized on and is an actual technique, called jump cuts. Sort of similar to stop motion animation. There were instances where Schrek (Guy who plays Count Orlock not the Green Ogre) is walking and without missing a beat magically jumps a few feet forward. Apart from saving time it helps make ze Count creepier by having him move in that way.
And following Schrek as the Count his movements are odd. That long scene where we see his shadow moving after Hutter, with his hands held awkwardly up. Granted just having the shadow of his head disappearing isn’t as frightening. They use a lot of these kind of shots though to make Schrek stand out as far as not being natural. That and the creepy make up that makes him look like a rodent. Both actually lead into new topics.
So the actual appearance of our rodent friend. Going back to the whole idea of reverse colonization, this film seems to bring that up. Clearly this dude is coming from Transylvania to Germany (not England. Not only is he killing people in the process, he also brings with him the plague, something that gets quite a bit of attention. The news paper clipping stating that the plague is in Transylvannia, than it makes it’s way via boat and rats, courtesy of Nosferatu, to Germany. Knock also plays apart in my mind as well. He refers to Orlock as master, which to me can be interpreted to the idea that Orlock already ‘owns’ some of the people. Also interestingly enough he doesn’t turn anyone into a vampire, but just kills them all. And back to the make up, he looks like a rat. Long weird fingers, the rat like teeth. Defiantly make it clear that he is linked with the foreign invasion of the plague.
Now to German expressionism. Orlock is a tall and thin creepy dude. In most of the shots this is emphasized with the set.
The door is designed to make to bring out the characters figure, and does it wonderfully. We also have the shots of him walking through the streets. A very out of place, creepy, thin man(Charlie’s Angels/Cripsin Glover Anyone?) in stark comparison to this lovely, very Biedermier image of a German town.
My biggest problem I guess is the timing of this film/flow. It was to long. It took the beginning of the book and made it last an hour and quite frankly that isn’t exactly the most exciting or suspense building of sections. Granted it does help down on how confusing things get, but still it needed to move much faster. A number of the shots seemed to be there simply to fill time, particularly those back and forth shots of the ship and Hutter going to Germany. Nothing really happens. We get that they are both racing to the same place, but it doesn’t need to take ten minutes to convey this. For being a horror film, which generally needs the shock and awe effect as well as suspense, the long wait became more of wanting the film to move on than really wanting to see what happens next, which is the wrong suspense.
The lightening was fabulous. Black and white film was used to convey dark scenes. A blue filter for night, a red filter for dawn/dusk, a sepia filter for day/a light room. The problem though is that it was to well lit. This is indeed a horror story right? It is supposed to be dark and generally one of the common conventions for creating a dark tone/mood is to adjust the lighting. Instead the entire film is brightly lit, which to me is counter productive, though it’s better than having a poorly lit movie.
The shadows were EPIC! Best parts of the film hands down. Classic way to be creepy and it also takes care of any graphic content when we get to the blood sucking (side note: References to the bites as mosquitos!). Sadly they weren’t used nearly enough. Instead there were to many shots of Schreak just standing around looking out of place and creepy. For being a ‘phantom’ he was very phantom-esque. Personally I would be interested to have been able to see a version where Mr. Lon Chaney took on the role. A brilliant actor when it comes to playing creepers.
Parts were frustrating, but overall it was good and is the kind of horror film I like. I have little faith in horror movies now. I personally agree with calling most “splatter films” made today as torture porn. I can’t get watching two hours of extremely graphic scenes of some naked chick(or the occasional male) being slowly tortured through mutilation and sadism. I can understand wanting to get an adrenaline rush form a horror film, but to me that doesn’t do it. Nor does it convey any thinly veiled message. If you want to watch a true horror film watch Night and Fog. It’s a thirty minute French documentary and it is a much better horror film than any I’ve seen.
PS: I have not seen the movie, but I discovered this film: . Shadow of the Vampire. It’s a fictional film about the making of Nofestratu where Schreck (played by Dafoe) is an actual vampire. Kind of a play off of method actors trying to be perfect, except with this it’s the Director. Seems interesting and Dafoe looks uncannily like Schreck.