Some signs that Werner Herzog has redone your horror classic: 1) Klaus Kinski plays (is?) the titular fiend; 2) notable interest in the dank overland journey to Dracula’s castle (complete with extras-cast-as-ethnography); 3) soundtrack by Popol Vuh; and 4) wild animals in supporting roles. In fact, Herzog’s 1979 variation hews to F.W. Murnau’s pre-sound plotting of the 19th-century Bram Stoker tale. Ye olde real-estate agent Jonathan ignores wife Lucy’s premonitions and visits a Carpathian shut-in, who’s interested in spooky house w/vue steps from her “lovely throat”; both get bit, but Jonathan’s better half saves the day (and the night). Not far removed from the director’s interest in trance states, his Nosferatu posits a self-pitying creature exhausted by immortality: Sunken-eyed Kinski inverts his usual frenzy into a fatigue underlining the importance of eternal rest. Set amidst the orderly streets and canals of plague-threatened Delft, the film works through an aura of decay more than montage-driven frights. Between the hordes of stowaway rats that accompany Dracula’s arrival, and a town-plaza dance of folly by doomed survivors (a Herzog addition), it’s like being present at the birth of a medieval legend. Rather than a remake, Herzog saw Nosferatu as a reconnection with German culture, reaching past the Great War to an earlier age (scoring to Wagner, playing up the silent-era look of Isabelle Adjani as Lucy). Next Herzog Halloween revival request: his and Kinski’s heady collaboration immediately post-Dracula—a Woyzeck adaptation shot in 18 days.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 29, 2008