With Halloween around the corner, it’s natural to want to scare yourself stupid. I envy horror movie aficionados whose robust horror threshold surpasses my anaemic one. (Yes I scare easily; I’m petrified by the atmospheric score to Poirot.) When I heard Nosferatu was showing at The Quad Derby, a visit was imperative.
Nosferatu is a classic silent movie raved about by traditionalists the world over. Released in 1922, this film was ground-breaking in that it depicted on film for the first time ever, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Directed by F.W. Murnau, this was an unlawful retelling of Stoker’s Dracula, which led to Murnau being sued. All copies of the film were ordered to be destroyed by judge ruling; it just so happened (by magic, perhaps?) that a few copies survived.
Now this was a showing with a difference. What was innovative about Tuesday evening’s session, was the live musical accompaniment. I would finally know what it felt like to be in a Victorian music hall.
Live music on the night came courtesy of HarmonieBand, an ensemble of multi-talented musicians who specialise in presenting specially composed scores for silent films.
The evening kicked off with an intro by the host and bandmaster extraordinaire of HarmonieBand, Paul Robinson. It is not often that you get an introduction pre-movie showing, which made this film presentation all the more special. Paul offered a brief background history into the origins of the film along with introducing his band, who with twitching fingers, couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
For those who haven’t watched the film, here’s a rundown of the ghostly goings on, without giving away any spoilers. The film kicks off with the happily married Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) bidding his beloved wife Ellen (Greta Schröder) goodbye as he makes his way to a work assignment. Hutter’s creepy boss Knock (Alexander Granach) has sent his unwitting employee to Transylvania to get house deeds signed by the mysterious Count Orlok (Max Schreck). The film really gets going when Hutter encounters the shadowy count and learns of his bloodthirsty secret. After managing to escape, Hutter runs to safety in his wife’s arms, yet his attempts of returning are hampered by mental trauma at what he had witnessed in Count Orlok’s castle. (Wouldn’t you be scarred for life if you saw this?)
The count has a dastardly plan to take over the sleepy village of Wisborg and eventually the world. In between travelling in unearthly cargo and causing widespread panic that the plague is the killer, the end of the film sees sacrifices made and lives changed irrevocably.
This is undoubtedly one of the greatest cinematic performances of all time by the mighty Schreck. The cinematography is positively crude due to the provincial era, yet certain scenes stand out. The Count’s body always seemed elongated, and the feel of the film is magical surrealism with a dash of German flair,.
Highlights include Count Orlok standing stock still at the window, fixing Ellen with steely gaze. You just know nothing good could come of being on Count Orlok’s radar.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Paul Robinson’s mesmerising score is thought-provoking and edgy in equal measure. I thought it ingenious how the band members didn’t need to turn around to check the scenes; they just played their hearts out.
This was a lovely Halloween treat. I strongly recommend you go out and watch Nosferatu, especially so if HarmonieBand are playing the musical accompaniment. You can see them in action at the following venues too:
Manchester Home on 30 October
Colchester Art Centre 29 November
Barbican Cinema 4 December
To find out more about HarmonieBand, do hop on over to their website here.
*Image courtesy of Christopher Cox, 411posters.com/tag/nosferatu*