Werner Herzog Philip Strick - Essay

Philip Strick

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Herzog's Nosferatu—The Vampyre] is concerned not with Bram Stoker but with F. W. Murnau…. (p. 127)

From Murnau's images, Herzog creates his own: the magnificent staging of the plague ship taking aboard its deadly cargo, and the helicopter shot of its course across a placid sea;… the brief, astounding glimpse, straight out of Aguirre, of a raft laden with coffins being swept down a torrential river. Finally, Nosferatu shows the plague-carrier galloping across sand-flats on his endless, lethal journey, his continuity praised by a reverential choir on the sound-track: Herzog finds both image and concept equally glorious.

It's a conclusion that confirms the reason behind the remake—the reprise is not of Murnau but of Herzog. Dracula is an outsider like Kaspar Hauser, Stroszek and Aguirre, a death-seeker amid the troops of somnambulists. Invading Holland with his conquistadorial rats, he bears a priceless gift, as promised by all true prophets—the knowledge of how not to die. There's just one catch: eternal life, secured through the sharing of blood, has its disadvantages. [The voice of Klaus Kinski (Dracula)] conveys them superbly by its despairing weariness. 'Can you imagine,' he murmurs hopelessly, 'what it's like to endure centuries of experiencing the same futile things?'… Such is the continuing fatalism of Werner Herzog, continuing to revolve in an elegant solitude. (pp. 127-28)

Philip Strick, "Film Reviews: 'Nosferatu—The Vampyre'," in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1979 by The British Film Institute), Vol. 48, No. 2, Spring, 1979, pp. 127-28.