Nosferatu the Vampyre
With Gus Van Sant’s recycled Psycho still fresh in mind, it’s enlightening to rent Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre and see how a real film artist updates a classic. Inspired by F.W. Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu, Herzog’s 1979 version — newly released after two decades — is the rare remake that has a good reason for being — not just because it’s a talkie version of a silent picture (a decent reason in its own right), but because of how it reinterprets the legend better known as Dracula.
Like Max Schreck’s original Nosferatu, Klaus Kinski’s Transylvanian count is a far cry from the Bela Lugosi model. Sporting sunken eyes, devil ears, and talons, he lurks in Herzog’s expressionistic shadows like some oversize vermin. Still, something about him gets under your skin. Almost comically bloodthirsty — watch him struggle to stay composed before literally throwing himself at a dinner guest’s cut finger — yet deeply melancholy over his fate as an eternally undead soul who’ll never again know love, this vampire is the movie’s ultimate victim. Even while he’s sinking his teeth into Isabelle Adjani’s lovely throat, you sorta feel for this poor, cursed creature. His bloodlust is so desperate, he doesn’t even realize that Adjani’s fair, pure Lucy has lured him into a deadly trap. As all Draculas must, he’s about to meet his end. That this one can make us experience even a twinge of sorrow for his fate is reason enough for his being. A-