Elsaesser, Thomas. “Six Degrees of Nosferau.” Sight & Sound (February 2001): 12–15.

Six Degrees of Nosferau

Thomas Elsaesser

from Sight & Sound February 2001

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The gestation of Nosferatu connected director F. W. Murnau with death and the traumas of his time in ways more intriguing than anything suggested in Shadow of the Vampire, the new film about making Nosferatu, argues Thomas Elsaesser

"Where do you think you're going?" Professor van Helsing calls after Jonathan Harker in F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu Ein Symphonie des Grauens (1922). "You cannot escape your destiny by running away." Both the film and Bram Stoker's original novel Dracula bear a family resemblance to the 'appointment in Samarra' story of the merchant who came across Death at noon in Baghdad and, panic-stricken, rode to Samarra, unaware that his real appointment with Death was not until the evening - in Samarra. Harker travels to Transylvania, thinking he's selling the mysterious Count a piece of real estate, but what the two also trade when they exchange contracts is the portrait of Harker's fiancée Mina, giving Nosferatu access to and possession of her person - the main reason, at least in Murnau's film, why the Count acquires real estate in the first place. And when Harker manages to escape the Count's castle, making his way home on horseback, little does he know that in the meantime the Count is already sailing ahead to await him in the becalmed port of Harker's native city, ready to land his deadly cargo of plague-carrying rats. Murnau too was involved in 'appointments in Samarra' - for instance, he seems to have undertaken what would prove his last journey in order to evade the very fate that was to lie in store for him. He died on 11 March 1931 in a freak automobile accident near Santa Monica on his way to arrange a steamship passage to New York after having been warned by his astrologer that he should avoid travelling on land.

The making of Murnau's last film Tabu A Story of the South Seas (1931), which opened nine days after his death, was similarly ill-fated. Not only did the production, which began auspiciously as a collaboration between Robert Flaherty and Murnau, break up in disarray, but it seems that Murnau himself was proceeding at cross-purposes. According to his correspondence, he actually undertook his South Sea journey to visit not Tahiti, where the film was shot, but Bali, where a long-time friend and former associate had made his home. Tabu has often been regarded as Murnau's intimate film diary, the ultimate home-movie: beautiful bodies diving into the deep for pearls, darting canoes, languid and yearning limbs stretched out or embracing. But in its sombre, ominous and uncanny mood, its empty landscapes and restrained framing, Tabu is actually a companion film to Nosferatu. The old Hindu priest, who impartially but implacably pursues the young couple, fulfils at plot level a function similar to that of the vampire, namely to split up the couple and reclaim the virgin bride. And as in Nosferatu, doom in Tabu comes in the form of a ship, pushing its way gently into the perfectly framed shot of a peaceful port.

Despite the detailed research of M. Bouvier and J.-L. Leutrat, the question of how Nosferatu came to be made is still something of a mystery. Virtually the only film produced by Prana-Film - a financial sinking ship whose owners were subsequently taken to court for copyright violations by Bram Stoker's widow despite having changed most of the characters' names - the project owed much to the enigmatic figure of Albin Grau, who signed for the decor and costumes but also seems to have been the driving force behind the production, both financially and artistically. Very little is known about Grau, though a recent article by Enno Patalas depicts him variously as a student of eastern philosophy, a freemason and master of the 'pansophic lodge of the light-seekers' in Berlin, a fan of Aleister Crowley, a friend of novelist-painter Alfred Kubin and the author of a pamphlet about the use of colour in decor and lighting in black-and-white films. More predictable collaborators were film-industry professionals screenwriter Henrik Galeen (who co-wrote The Golem) and director of photography Fritz Arno Wagner, one of the three top cameramen at Ufa.

Germany in 1921-22 was recovering from the bloodletting of World War I. The spectres that haunted the new republic included the Spartacist uprisings in Berlin and Munich, based on the Soviet model and bloodily suppressed, raging inflation that bled the economy like an internal haemorrhage, and an army of horribly disfigured war cripples. But it was another memorable event that left its echo in Nosferatu: in the winter of 1919-20 a Spanish flu epidemic and famine hit Germany, ravaging the country and reportedly killing more civilians than the Great War itself. So the cholera whose origins Nosferatu is supposed to record is doubled by several successive disasters befalling a defeated Germany, during which public opinion only too readily blamed the victors of Versailles for not coming to the country's aid. Instead, the French, adding insult and humiliation to injury and penury, insisted on the prompt payment of war reparations and annexed the Rhineland, setting off a chain of events that gave the nationalist right its first electoral successes among the working class.

But the war had left less visible scars and traumas, especially on the veterans. In the run-up to the opening of Nosferatu, Grau published a piece in Bühne und Film explaining how he'd come by the story and why he'd wanted to turn it into a film. It has to do with the war in Serbia and his experiences as a soldier of the infantry. Dispatched to a remote village as part of what he describes as "a vermin-extermination commando", he's billeted with an old peasant who tells him the story of his father who, killed in a blood-feud, was buried without sacraments and haunted the village as a vampire. The peasant even shows Grau an official paper about his father's disinterment in 1884, where the body is discovered perfectly preserved except for two front teeth now protruding over the lower lip. The prefect ordered a stake to be driven through the heart of this 'nosferatu' (Romanian for undead), who expires with a sigh.

What comes into view in Bram Stoker's original Dracula as much as in Grau's tale and Galeen's unauthorised adaptation for Murnau is Britain and western Europe's relationship with 'Mitteleuropa' and its eastern flank: the Slav peoples in general and those of the Balkans in particular, a world the Germanic west had for centuries studied with fascinated antipathy. And Mitteleuropa also encompassed 'the Pale' - the home territories of the eastern Jews whom the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 had forced to move westwards. Superimposed in the figure of Nosferatu are several contradictory and conflicting ethnic or racial 'others', making him at once an 'in-between worlds' creature and a babushka doll of 'worlds-within-worlds'. Put differently, the story prefigures in some sense the imperial coloniser's bad dreams of a reverse colonisation of the mother country by the colonised subjects. The earth Nosferatu brings in his coffins, as well as the name of his ship (Demeter, i.e. Mother Earth), give a clear hint of this feared return. That such an influx of the subjugated and exploited should be seen in terms of rats, contagion and contamination speaks volumes: about the unselfconscious racism of the educated classes during the last-but-one turn of the century, but also about 'us', hyper-selfconscious readers of literary texts and filmic discourses, and citizens of 'Fortress Europe', some of whom harbour their own nightmare visions of history's undead heading west from the 'land beyond the trees' and beyond.

Nosferatu is a film about networks of contagion and contamination that are also networks of secret and subversive communication. The lines of attraction and repulsion that link Nosferatu and Harker and Nosferatu and Mina weave a subtle web of interaction and dependency, of transfer and substitution. These different levels of making contact charge the film with the kind of energy that alone gives vampirism its extended metaphoric significance, reverberating, for instance, in the film-within-the-film (a spoof on Ufa's recently inaugurated Kulturfilm documentaries) about nature's own vampires and predators. A mutually sustaining symbiosis mingles passion and revulsion with petrified fascination and drifting abandonment: it takes over the ship, her unfortunate crew and then the burgers of Wisborg, but it's also the subject of Professor van Helsing's natural-history lesson, when he traces a malevolent genealogy from plant life to animal existence, from carnivorous orchids, polyps, spiders and flies, and rats, all the way to the beginning and Mina's playfulness with the cat and her kitten. But a similarly fatal chain of eating or being eaten goes from Mina's anxious possessiveness as Harker sets off, to the servility of the Transylvanian peasants, the dangerous hospitality of Nosferatu, the craven submission of Renfield, the sadistic exploitation of the ship's crew by its master, until it returns full circle with Mina's sacrifice, offering herself to Nosferatu's terrible visitation.

The idea of unpredictable patterns of propagation is perhaps not so dissimilar from what in more recent times has been studied by mathematicians and statisticians under the name of small-worlds syndrome. Small-worlds scientists are trying to understand the dynamics of groups and open systems and the patterns of their interaction, which tend to oscillate between total randomness and total organisation. It's a key issue for biologists (how do thousands of crickets manage to chirp in unison within seconds of starting up?). It's used by economists when predicting global stock-exchange movements or the effects of a particular market's collapse. It's of interest to preventive medicine when looking at the spread of viruses and devising methods of disease control, and it helps designers of mobile communications networks trying to determine the shortest route between two long-distance parties, connecting them by piggy-backing on local data traffic.

To the rest of us, small-worlds syndrome is better known as 'six degrees of separation', according to which everyone knows someone famous across the overlap between one's own circle of friends, acquaintances and associates and the circles of friends of these friends. If we use Nosferatu as a template, then the six degrees of Murnau open up intriguing connections.

Born in Bielefeld in 1888 as the son of a textile manufacturer, Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe adopted the name Murnau as a young adult. The fact that he did so in order to disguise an unflattering surname and in homage to an artists' colony south of Munich already leads to Kandinsky, Franz Marc and other members of the Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter who used to spend time in Murnau. And Murnau the place is just one of the connections between Murnau the man and Expressionist poet Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele and his circle of avant-garde artist friends.

Albin Grau may link Murnau with Alfred Kubin and such Prague Gothic writers as Gustav Meyrink and Franz Kafka, but he was an outsider to the film industry, while Galeen and Wagner belonged to one or other of the production units that existed at Ufa under Erich Pommer. What's called Expressionist film mainly reflected common tastes and preferences among this remarkably tightly knit community of professionals - no more than two dozen names - who operated as teams and skills networks. With the exception of Fritz Lang, Murnau and a few others, the directors were no more than first among equals, with the set designers probably leaving the most lasting impression on the look of the films.

Murnau's reputation is as German cinema's most exquisite Romantic poet, in contrast with the technophile Lang who had astounded the film world with the trick effects for which Ufa was famous since The Spiders (1919) and Destiny (1921). In 1915 Murnau was called up and served in the infantry in East Prussia; he hated it and was bored to distraction. The following year he managed to get transferred to the Luftwaffe, where he flew combat missions over France until after an emergency landing during fog he came to spend the remainder of the war as an internee in neutral Switzerland. Murnau's time as a pilot suggests that this tender soul had nonetheless shown a remarkable appetite for 'storms of steel', blending his high-Romantic sensibility with a taste for 'top-gun' technology typical of the aristocratic German dandy in the von Richthofen mould. Indeed, Murnau's obsession with gliding camera movements and intricate spatial set-ups suggests analogies with the perception of pliable space and horizonless vistas experienced by a fighter pilot.

Most cultural-studies approaches to Nosferatu (or indeed to Stoker's Dracula) have little trouble relating the myth of the vampire to a historically new and politically troubling awareness of female sexuality. The somnambulist Mina and her friend Lucy have been compared to the hysterical females treated by Charcot in Paris at the Salpêtrière, where they were photographed by Albert Londe, thanks to his newly developed chronophotographic camera, while two young doctors from Germany and Austria, Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud, looked on. (Stoker has van Helsing support his diagnosis of Lucy's symptoms with a pointed reference to having studied in Paris under Charcot.)

But Murnau's Nosferatu is open to another reading of its sexual pathology. Vampires in the movies are usually bisexual, often letting ambiguity hover over the question of whether, say, Dracula's brides are for the Count ends in themselves, or merely means to an end (as Venus-traps, to attract young men to their rescue who then become the juicier victims). But Murnau's Nosferatu would seem to be the prototype of another gender, not least because of the vampire's many animal features, from his pointed ears and bird-like claws to his rodent teeth, rather than the more usual fangs suddenly bared on an otherwise impeccably gentleman-dandy face and physique (as with Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee).

The French surrealists admired Nosferatu mainly for its eroticism, contrasting the anodyne puppy-love of Mina and Harker with Nosferatu's necrophiliac lust, musty and potent at once, exuding the aroma of dank crypts and leathery flesh. According to Robin Wood, on the other hand, sexuality is branded in Murnau's films as the source of evil: Nosferatu stands for raw carnal desire which must be kept in check in the interest of higher spiritual values, and so Mina, expressing that mixture of desire, curiosity and horror typical of patriarchal culture's depiction of female sexuality, must die along with the vampire. But the love triangles in the film also lend themselves to an interpretation that brings out a more layered structure of sexual attraction and ambivalence. For instance, underlying the secret heterosexual bond between Nosferatu and Mina is the Renfield-Harker-Nosferatu relation. The initial situation suggests that the film superimposes two plotlines, one heterosexual, the other developed around the homosexual relationship between Nosferatu and Renfield doubled by the homosocial story of Harker being befriended by Renfield, whereupon the older man introduces his younger friend to a very 'experienced' queen. Likewise the protagonists of Murnau's Faust (1926) - Mephisto and the rejuvenated Faust - could be called a queer couple, especially on their travel adventures to that celebrated destination of homoerotic desire, the Mediterranean, thinly disguised by the excessively heterosexual story of Faust and Gretchen.

Siegfried Kracauer had argued that Weimar cinema obsessively staged anxieties about male self-images and male sexuality: his 1966 From Caligari to Hitler even ties the theme of damaged masculinity to the vanishing of paternal authority after a lost war. Certainly the preferred stories of Expressionist cinema focus on male identity crises - often signalled by the appearance of a double - and toy with bisexuality by featuring love triangles in which the two males are usually 'best friends' or business associates who show an obvious but rarely openly acknowledged attraction to each other. In this respect Murnau's films are neither an exception nor unusually explicit. Doubles abound in Murnau as they do in other directors, whether by way of disguise (Tartuffe, 1926) or across a split male character (Faust old and young). Likewise, there are several crucial films where a pure, almost asexual love is threatened or destroyed by the intrusion of another male's predatory attentions - to the man (Nosferatu/Harker, Mephisto/Faust, Tartuffe/Orgon, Tabu's Hitu/Matahi).

For a novelist like Jim Shepard, Murnau's homosexuality is crucial to both his films and his life; sorrow and secrecy become the wellsprings of his creative drive, the motives behind a tale of love, longing, guilt and self-abjection. In his fictionalised 1998 biography of Murnau, Nosferatu in Love, Shepard makes the twin poles of self-deprecating humour and self-lacerating grief the protective armour behind which the director feeds on lascivious thoughts furtively indulged. For Shepard, the deepest wound the war inflicted on Murnau was the death on the Eastern Front of his intimate friend Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele, on whom he once recklessly cheated. Baffled and hurt, Hans voluntarily enlists and soon gets himself killed, to the undying shame and mortification of Murnau, at least according to Shepard.

It's true that Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele was an Expressionist poet and co-editor of the magazine Das neue Pathos. He was the son of a Jewish banker and art-collector, whose mother Mary, a concert singer, virtually adopted Murnau after his return from Zurich at the end of the war. It's also true that the Ehrenbaum-Degele villa in Berlin-Grunewald remained Murnau's home from 1919 until he left for America in June 1926. But Shepard's fictional diary spins its tale around a number of characters and incidents for which there is no evidence in historical records.

There are two other 'degrees of separation' - one that might underpin and the other undermine Shepard's speculations. The first is the suggestion, already made obliquely in the press reports after the opening night, that Nosferatu is something of a spoof, the camp interpretation and insider's tale of characters and antics in another castle from that of the film - the private retreat (a castle in Austria) and very public court (the Deutsche Schauspielhaus in Berlin) presided over by the reigning monarch of Berlin's artistic and theatre worlds, Max Reinhardt. (From 1911 to 1914 Murnau was a pupil of Reinhardt's in Berlin, working as an actor and assistant director.) In his brief study of Murnau published in 1977, Stan Brakhage first reads Nosferatu as a primal-scene fantasy of Murnau himself, linking it to a homosexual childhood fantasy and the wish to do away with his parents and at the same time play father to his mother. But he, too, links the film to Reinhardt ('Max Schreck') and his circle, where homosexual eccentricity and extravagance were encouraged, and homosexuals with talent and panache found a safe haven and congenial company amid the strict anti-homosexual legislation of the otherwise broadminded Weimar Republic.

Shepard describes these excesses with some gusto by introducing a character called Spiess, who plays the role of seducer, Mephisto and evil genius to the hesitant Murnau-Faust, and in the end his novelised biography stands and falls by the credibility one is prepared to give this figure. As it happens, a Walter Spies did in fact exist, and was present - the other degree of separation - during the shooting of Nosferatu, though he never appeared on any list of credits. But he wasn't the figure depicted by Shepard, and his subsequent life is too important, both to Murnau and to many other histories of dance, music and film, to leave Shepard's account unchallenged.

Although definitely an intimate of Murnau's in the early 20s - Murnau invited Spies to live with him and asked him to decorate his villa - Spies left Germany soon after the making of Nosferatu, disenchanted by the empty frivolity of the film world and its hangers-on. Spies was a painter and musician, born in Moscow in 1895 - another Slav - whose family fled west to Berlin in 1909 and sent their son to study in Dresden with Oskar Kokoschka and Otto Dix. In the ethnological museums of Berlin and Amsterdam he discovered the visual and musical culture of what was then the Dutch East Indies. In 1923 he boarded a ship for Java and settled in Jogyakarta, where he stayed for four years before moving to Bali. His letters to his mother, as well as the few to Murnau, make it clear that Murnau remained his sponsor (he bought several of Spies' paintings) and close friend. A visit to Spies in Bali was on Murnau's mind when, disappointed with his work in Hollywood, he bought a yacht and set off on a voyage on the high seas in the direction of the South Sea Islands and the East Indies. If the prematurely ruptured relationship with Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele made Murnau into something of an undead, a nosferatu in love, then it was certainly not due to Walter Spies. On the contrary, Spies' invisible presence during the shooting of Nosferatu makes him a more likely candidate for the haunter, giving another twist to the mystery surrounding the real identity of the central figure.
E. Elias Merhige's recent Shadow of the Vampire turns on the idea that Nosferatu isn't played by an actor at all but by a real vampire in disguise, a suggestion first made by Adou Kyrou in Le Surréalisme au cinema (1953): "In the role of the vampire the credits name the music-hall actor Max Schreck, but it is well known that this attribution is a deliberate cover-up... Who hides behind the character of Nosferatu? Maybe Nosferatu himself?" The actor-as-star-as-vampire, needing fresh blood and being paid in unsuspecting victims, is in the film business not such a far-fetched metaphor. Many a great star has been known to terrorise the cast with his caprice or turn the set into a bloody battlefield of violated egos and raped reputations. But an even more archetypal movie situation is that of the scientist harnessing the dangerous powers of nature or the unconscious in order to realise his vision at whatever cost to himself and others: every Dr Jekyll trying the serum on himself is a stand-in for the artist-director as sorcerer, no longer in control of the apprentices he has summoned. It's Faust calling on Mephisto, selling his shadow or his soul, an image elaborated in Shadow of the Vampire where the director's ruthlessness in sacrificing his leading lady to his vampire-actor for heightened artistic effect is depicted as equal to the vampire's thirst for blood. But with its conflation of actor and vampire, the film only appropriates what lies ready-made in the filmographies not only of Murnau but of German Expressionist cinema in general, with its ubiquitous ventriloquists' dummies, waxworks coming to life, warning shadows, Golems - all caught in the confusion between art and life, or rather of art as more truthful, more youthful and more authentic than life.

Why has this standard trope of movie lore made a comeback in recent years? Shadow of the Vampire comes right after Neil LaBute's Nurse Betty, billed not as camp vampire gore but as a romantic comedy, despite the bloodletting. It too focuses on a character whose scary dedication to disavowing the difference between artifice and life is mistaken for method acting. Perhaps it's no wonder that the old problem of realism and art is revived in the digital age, where the fake looks more real than the real thing, but where we're so suspicious of authenticity and the image worlds we inhabit are of such universal duplicity that it's axiomatic that the real thing must be fake.

As with The Matrix, The Truman Show, The Cell or Being John Malkovich, the most intriguing questions at the heart of Nurse Betty and Shadow of the Vampire are philosophical: the (epistemological) problem of 'other minds' and the (ontological) problem of 'other worlds' - in the first case, what would it mean to 'know' what goes on in someone else's mind, and what proof do I have that others actually exist, and in the second, if the world I live in is merely someone else's fiction, where would the 'outside' be, from which I could ever see that I'm trapped 'inside', if not inside someone else's inside? These are problems to which the answers are versions of Pascal's wager: the leap into faith (which may be the void) remains the sole cure for such radical scepticism. The vampire movies, as suggested, are more in the line of a Faustian pact than a Pascalian wager, whether entered into out of world-weary longing for youth, love and eternal life, or out of a quest for truth, beauty and the perfection of artifice by ambitious artists or mad scientists. Chances are that either way they get more than they bargained for, dying in horrible agony like Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray or suffering the apparently inverse but in truth complementary fate, namely becoming one of the undead and wishing for mortality: in both cases, ending up as monsters, excluded from the community of ordinary humans and carrying with them an unredeemed or irredeemable surplus.

What is this surplus energy or meaning that brings forth these figures of excessive but also inextinguishable desire? Excess there is, yet is it actually a matter of desire? "We bring them the plague, and they don't even know it," Freud is supposed to have said to Jung the day the two of them disembarked in New York harbour in 1908.

The theories of female sexuality woven around Dracula/Nosferatu all suggest that these attractive/ repulsive monsters embody the vagaries of desire. But psychoanalysts, especially the Lacanians, might well argue that vampires are drive creatures, not desire creatures, meaning that it's the death drive, the repetition compulsion, the entropic principle of life that animates them, not desire, based on and sustained by lack, renewing itself around the perception and disavowal of difference.

Yet there may be another way of describing both the elements of excess, surplus and residue in these figures and the sense that they're creatures driven not by (human) desire but by some other force and energy - that of our technical revolution, as it has impacted on the domains of information and communication. Dracula may be the only original myth the age of mechanical reproduction has produced. This, at any rate, is the notion of Friedrich Kittler, for whom Dracula stands for the eternal repetition of mechanical inscription which entered the western world with the typewriter, the gramophone/phonograph and the cinema. But what the myth tells us about these new media is still a moot point.

Kittler, for instance, argues that Dracula is the story of how women themselves become media, how their susceptibility and sensitivity are discovered in the middle of the 19th century as a resource and raw material. Charcot, Breuer, Freud - for Kittler they all line up as men who "harvest" the mediatic powers of women, and it's Bram Stoker who calls their bluff, who both exposes the patriarchal mechanisms and offers - as in all good myths - the imaginary solution that allows Victorian society to live with this shocking realisation and its contradictions. In the contrasting and complementary figures of Mina and Lucy, and in the descriptions of their symptoms, Stoker makes hysteria and somnambulism appear as the human equivalents of wireless transmission (invented by Marconi in 1895). On their journey in pursuit of Dracula back to Transylvania, Mina serves the men as both medium and messenger - thanks to her contact with Dracula, she's able to track his global position through the transmissions emanating from him, but also, being familiar with the technically advanced transcription device of the typewriter, she records and fixes the messages he unwittingly sends across the ether, while the posse of pursuers travel towards their appointment in Samarra/Carpathia. As Kittler dryly remarks, women around 1890 had only two choices: to become hysterics or typists. Mina, after the demise of Lucy, is both.

Freud, by contrast, was a notorious technophobe. The only piece of technology he ever pronounced on is the "mystic writing pad", basically a child's toy and more akin to the wax tablets of the Romans or the palimpsests of the medieval monks than to Edison's, the Lumières' or Marconi's inventions. Freud's refusal to have anything to do with cinema, notably his utter lack of co-operation in the making of G. W. Pabst's Secrets of a Soul (1912), is also well documented.
Psychoanalysis and the cinema - born together, but on a collision course ever since. Freud was right: they are antagonists, but they came together against a common enemy it now seems it was their historical mission to kill - literature and the literary author. For the first 100 years, the technological media and psychoanalysis competed over literature's prime task and near-monopoly: representing, that is recording, storing and repeating, individual human experience. Cinema and psychoanalysis translated experience into images and sounds, texts and traces, manifest as physical symptoms or as phantom sensations. Where the cinema does it mechanically, using a synthetic support, psychoanalysis retained the (female) body and the (human) voice as material support. It, too, however, tried to automate the recording process as much as possible through free association as 'automatic writing' and through the analyst as passive recording device. In the process both media produced that famous excess which in various generic formulas (from musical and melodrama to special effects and body-horror) feminism and film studies in the last 30 years have been trying to come to grips with.

In the new century, it's psychoanalysis that's in full retreat, a mere ghost haunting the hermeneutic mills of the humanities. And yet Nosferatu is still with us: the excess energy of the undead is now readable as belonging to the cinema and its eccentric patterns of propagation and proliferation across culture at large. Not only in the way films have deposited their coffins in galleries, museums, schools and libraries, but also thanks to the Renfields - cinephiles turned necrophiles - lovingly restoring perished prints and reviving the 'originals' at Sunday matinees or special retrospectives. Less fancifully perhaps, remakes of cinema's classics and restorations of the cinematic patrimony are also efforts to banish and `contain the mysterious forces or lifeforms the sound-image media have brought into human existence. Perhaps the mistake of Shadow of the Vampire is not that it fantasises a vampire hiding inside 'Max Schreck', but that the potency of the myth of Nosferatu today speaks less about the making of a movie than about restoration and preservation, so it's perhaps fitting that besides a camp remake we can also enjoy a re-issue (on video and DVD) of a 'brand-new' Nosferatu.

Character names follow those of Bram Stoker's novel, not Murnau's film.