Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jason explicates NOSFERATU

In all the excitement of seeing so many new movies at Cinequest, I've almost lost sight of my favorite old movie, playing Friday night at the California, with the always awesome Dennis James at the organ: NOSFERATU

Anyone who has seen it can tell you about the amazing visuals, the creepy tone, and how it's the first (surviving) version of Dracula on screen (with names changed in a failed attempt to avoid copyright issues). But I just want to add my interpretation (and I'm probably not the first with this take) to the mix in hopes that thinking about this will give anyone who sees it at least a more interesting viewing experience, whether you agree with it or not.

The key to understanding NOSFERATU is to sympathize with the female lead (something that's pretty rare even in contemporary films). In particular, the key is to realize that while Thomas and Ellen Hutter are married, it is an unconsummated marriage. In the opening scene we see Ellen sitting at home, bored, playing with her We then see her husband Thomas, skipping along like an idiot man-child. He picks some flowers and brings them to her. Although we can't hear the conversation, I imagine it goes something like this:

Thomas: "Guess what, dear?"
Ellen: "We're finally going to do it!?"
Thomas: "No! I picked you some flowers!"

She's visibly disappointed at receiving flowers. What kind of woman is disappointed at receiving flowers? Answer: One who is tired of his bullcrap. But she thinks fast and makes up an excuse about being sad because the flowers will now die. Nearly the identical exchange occurs minutes later when he explains he's going to Transylvania on business.

In Transylvania, of course, he runs across Count Orlok, the vampire (and the physical manifestation of the unfetter male id). As Orlok attacks Hutter, Ellen feels something and reaches Orlok, not to her husband. Through her longing, she brings Orlok, and all his destruction, to the city.

Ellen waits for her lover to return. She waits by the seashore. Her husband is coming by land, it's Orlok who is coming by sea. Orlok is now (psychically) her love, not her husband. Unfortunately, he brings sickness, death, destruction (he is, after all, the unfettered male id).

In order to defeat the Vampire, Ellen must make a sacrifice. She must give herself to him, keeping him "up all night" and "engorged with blood" until the "cock crows" thereby killing him. It's a metaphor....

NOSFERATU is a story of the female libido--the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.

Enjoy NOSFERATU at Cinequest, 7:00 Friday night.

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