More abstract than Stoker’s source material, the Expressionist Nosferatu is a surreal nightmare from which the DNA of all horror cinema can be traced. And while future Dracula films continued on an increasingly familiar path after Lugosi, the legacy of Count Orlok’s grotesque face refused to follow the same path. In fact, the first Nosferatu Writer-director Werner Herzog’s remake was even more artistic and detached than Murnau’s film. Long cinematic sequences steeped in atmosphere and dread are built around the image of Klaus Kinski’s vampire descending a river.
In ancient folklore, the vampire was neither a creature of desire nor of great intelligence. It was a specter; a ghost returning from the grave who only existed to get rid of the living. Herzog leaned into this idea and even found a macabre serenity in it, recreating Renaissance paintings that lovingly embraced the baroque despair brought on by the plagues. One of the best visuals in the film is of rats that traveled with the vampire to Wismar, now invading the table at an outdoor feast. In times of a modern pandemic and renewed interest in al fresco dining, such images come even closer.
Kinski would reinvent this version again in Nosferatu in Venice (1988), a schlocky Italian pseudo-sequel that departs even further from traditional vampire storytelling, reinterpreting “Nosferatu” (as it’s now simply referred to in this movie) as a creature of comfort; a demon lover who frees his prey from the gloom of this mortal envelope and the constraints of their youth.
That Robert Eggers of The witch and Lighthouse fame will add its own distinct flavor to this legacy is truly intriguing. As a filmmaker forced to unearth the historical roots and the sources of the collective nightmares of our culture, Eggers will be liberated by the simple title “Nosfertau” to bypass a hundred years of Dracula, Anne Rice, dusk movies, to name a few. It should be remembered that the original 1922 Nosferatu already has its feet more firmly anchored in the 19th than in the 20th century. Still, revisiting a legacy with two horror masterpieces to its name is risky. Eggers told us this in 2019 when we asked him if he’s still going ahead with a Nosferatu then redo.
“I spent so many years and so much time, just so much blood on it, yeah, it would be such a shame if [Nosferatu] never happened, ”Eggers said at the time. “But also, I don’t know, maybe Nosferatu doesn’t need to be redone, although I spent so much time on it.
Apparently, Eggers couldn’t give up on the project, even as his profile and that of his muse Anya Taylor-Joy continued to rise. Indeed, Eggers Lighthouse won several Independent Spirit Awards, notably for the performance and cinematography of Willem Dafoe. Meanwhile, Taylor-Joy’s career has exploded in recent years thanks to roles in Emma. and The Queen’s Gambit, and with the stroke of being chosen as a young Furiosa in the upcoming film by filmmaker George Miller Mad Max: Fury Road prequel. Still, she and Eggers seem drawn to the same minds, having already teamed up for next year’s Viking drama, The man of the North. And it was Taylor-Joy who revealed this week to The Los Angeles Times that she and Eggers are preparing their third collaboration: Nosferatu.