Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dracula Adaptations | Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

Who's in it?: Klaus Kinski (For a Few Dollars More, Doctor Zhivago, the 1970 Jesús Franco Dracula adaptation) and Isabelle Adjani (this is all I know her from, but she played Emily Brontë in the French film Les Soeurs Brontë that I'm all interested in now).

What's it about?: Werner Herzog remakes the 1922 silent classic, but with sound, color, and the original names of Stoker's characters (mostly).

How is it?: As much as I love Murnau's version, I was all about seeing an update. I don't know that I've ever actually seen a Herzog-directed film, but he's a legend and I do love it when he appears as an actor in various things, like Jack Reacher or that episode of Parks and Recreation. I also thought it was cool that he cast Kinski as Dracula after Kinski played Renfield in Franco's adaptation. So I was quite looking forward to this.

It was great going for a while. It moves slowly, but it's a rewarding quietness with lots of lingering shots of landscapes and beautiful, atmospheric music. It's a gorgeous film. And Kinski makes a surprisingly sympathetic Dracula even under all that horrifying makeup. He also has a temper and of course a very nasty thirst for blood, so I was never on his side, but there's an ironic humanity to him that I liked a lot.

Adjani is the film's standout though as the extremely sensitive and heroic Lucy. Like in Murnau's version, she's susceptible to premonitions and would be sort of maddeningly paranoid if she weren't so unbelievably sweet and of course right. As much as I love her and her heart though, I have a couple of big issues with the character.

First of all, the script insists on calling her Lucy for some dumb, nonsensical reason. She's clearly the Mina character from the novel. But that's the lesser of my problems. I'd heard that Herzog changed the ending from the silent version and even thought it sounded interesting, but when I actually watched it, I hated it. Like in Murnau's film, Mina (I still think of her that way) sacrifices herself to defeat Dracula and hopefully save her town. But Herzog robs the action of power by having it be effectively meaningless. Her act of courage is invalidated and I was left wondering what the point was.

Rating: Three out of five Minas

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