Set in 1921, Shadow of the Vampire has intriguing visuals and great acting to drive the plot right to the heart of the audience and makes you want to learn more about the filming of the 1922 classic film Nosferatu, which was believed to be the first film on the Dracula story (though some say UK’s the Secret of House No. 5 was first).
From the beginning line “roll camera and begin” spoken by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, well played by John Malkovich, audiences have a great sense of interest in the plot. Shadow of the Vampire demonstrates how the process of filming was such a pure art (e.g. cranking the camera speed, instructions during filming, etc.)
The role of protagonist and antagonist switch between Friedrich and Max Schreck (meaning “terror” or “fear” in German), devilishly played by an almost unrecognizable Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Clear and Present Danger).
The solid supporting cast includes producer Albin Grau, played by Udo Kier (Blade), actor Gustav von Wangenheim, played by Eddie Izzard; actress Greta Schroeder, played by Catherine McCormack and Fritz Arno Wagner, played by Cary Elwes.
The film uses a lot of foreshadowing in the dialogue as director E. Elias Merhige (Suspect Zero) paints a realistic environment around the characters. The set design and production values are really strong as they create an amazing environment for the cast’s performances.
Notice how the relationship between Schreck and director progress the tension in the plot. Audiences get the feeling that the plot comes from director’s point of view as the film progresses. The documentary-type style doesn’t add much to stories around Nosferatu and the movie itself, but not many people have seen the movie anyway.
Merhige and his crew bring a wider audience to this subject and the circumstances surrounding the filming of Nosferatu. More background before the film would be helpful, but you will enjoy the film better if you research the original Nosferatu afterwards.
Filmmakers use the timeline of events during the filming of Nosferatu as the plot contains short montages reflecting the lives of the characters as they’re making the film. Notice how the drug content allows the plot to bend reality and allows the characters’ imaginations to play a role in the action. Fantasy turns into reality and vice versa.
This film has a lot of memorable lines and provides solid entertainment in a simple format that can be followed by a large audience. Recommended (***1/2 stars out of four stars) and rated R for violence, drug content, some language and nudity. Nicholas Cage serves as one of the film’s producers.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler