I have recently begun my journey into the worlds of Werner Herzog and my first stop came to be Nosferatu:Phantom der Nacht, featuring a brilliant Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula, Bruno Ganz as Jonathan Harker and Isabelle Adjani as Lucy.
The film is clearly an hommage to F.W. Murnau’s version (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) from 1922 (which in turn was based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula). Several scenes are almost completely identical and the expressionist style of the original film shines through.
The film constantly balances between dream and reality, thus enhancing the character Dracula who is also somewhere in between, caught in a limbo. This state is very well portrayed by Kinski who is both scary and pathetic, repulsive and powerful. Even more importantly he seems to see himself in this light; his current state makes him sick, still he cannot resist it.
Herzog has very skillfully portrayed several themes and incorporated them with the story. One of them revolves around civilisation and different aspects of the “modern world”. Science (portrayed through Dr van Helsing), for example, can do nothing to stop the plague that follows Dracula and it is Lucy, who represents faith and emotion, that comes out as the rational one.
Another very interesting theme is the collapse of civilisation and the alienation that follows modernity as showed in a beautiful scene where a group of people dines outside, just as normal, while being surrounded by hundreds of rats.
Regarding sexuality I see this film as being more about love than sexuality itself. The final scene of the film could be considered a love scene even though it might not come off as that. Both Lucy and the Count are acting through love – not love for each other but love none the less.
My first meeting with Herzog was quite a success and I have no doubt that the following journey will continue in that direction.