Trent Film Society: Nosferatu

A scene from Nosferatu

TFS is proud to present the second screening in our line-up of films for our horror-themed month of October! Following the smashing success of It Follows (see what I did there?), our next screening will be a special event: a rare double-feature of two classic horror films from the Weimar era of Germany. The 1920s were a productive time for filmmakers, especially those typifying the Expressionist style, an artistic school that uses distortions of reality to evoke strong emotional responses. This school of filmmaking is perhaps most closely associated with the works of Fritz Lang (Metropolis) and has remained an influential style to this day, inspiring directors as diverse as Ridley Scott and Tim Burton.

That’s enough history for now. Onto the films themselves: our first film of the night will be F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (A Symphony of Horrors), better known by the shortened title Nosferatu (1922). This film, popularized by its remake by the German director Werner Herzog in 1979, was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and did much to ingrain the notion of vampirism in mass culture. Like its companion Der Golem, it is a silent film in black and white, which lends itself well to the film’s use of chiaroscuro (a visual technique in which the contrast between brightly illuminated subjects and dark backgrounds is used for effect). Perhaps the film’s most famous scene is the shot of the vampire ascending a staircase, silhouetted against the wall – an effective use of suggesting rather than explicitly showing the monster, a technique famously exploited by more contemporary horror films such as Jaws (1975).

The grotesque look of Count Orlok, with his pale skin, bald head, pointed ears, and clawed fingers, remains a terrifying sight to modern audiences. The plot concerns a real estate agent who travels to the vampire’s castle to close a deal, unaware that he is a vampire who has been terrorizing the local peasants. All of the classic vampire tropes (sleeping in coffins, drinking blood, and vulnerability to sunlight) can be found in this film. The plot hewed so closely to that of the novel that Bram Stoker’s widow took legal action against it – which only added to its notoriety.

Our second film of the night, Paul Wegener’s Der Golem (The Golem), also bears resemblance to a Victorian horror novel – namely, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. However, it is based on a medieval Jewish legend about a rabbi of Prague who creates an artificial lifeform from clay and animates it with magic, intending to use it to defend the marginalized Jews of the city from persecution.

However, the golem takes on a life of its own and rampages throughout the city (as artificial lifeforms are prone to do) and it is up to Rabbi Loew to save his people from the demonic golem that has turned against him. This film is actually the third in a trilogy made by Wegener about the legend of the golem, but the other two have been lost to history, leaving it as the definitive version of the story.

Both films have German intertitles with English translation. Their running times are 81 min. and 91 min. respectively, with a break in between. A short discussion will follow the films. Audiences are welcome to come for either or both films – but we hope you’ll stick around for both features (if you’re not scared out of your wits, that is!). This screening, which starts at 8PM, is at our regular venue of Artspace (378 Aylmer St. North) and best of all, it’s free! Note: TFS is not responsible for the development of any insatiable bloodlust or monstrous rampages.