Shadow of the Vampire | Chicago Reader

Shadow of the Vampire

What if legendary perfectionist F.W. Murnau entered into a Faustian pact to cast an actual vampire in his 1922 horror classic Nosferatu? Skirting over what cinephiles would find intriguing in a Murnau biopic, director E. Elias Merhige poses this odd and somewhat pointless question in his revisionist take on German expressionism. Murnau (suitably effete ham John Malkovich) announces that the dedicated Stanislavskian actor Max Schreck will appear only in full costume and makeup, and Willem Dafoe sinks into the role, gussied up in long fingernails that he clicks furiously when disturbed. Ultimately Schreck takes over the troubled production, which plunges into a bacchanalia of drugs, death, and cinematic anarchy. Keenly accurate reproductions of Nosferatu aside, it's odd that a movie about a great classical director is notable for its extremely contemporary acting. I'm not sure why this was made, but it wasn't out of love for Murnau. 93 min.

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