This year is the 100th anniversary of Nosferatu. What explains the continued fascination with this silent German classic?
Well, images like the shadow of the vampire climbing the stairs are iconic and burned into the collective memory, even among people who have never seen the film.
Images like the shadow of the vampire climbing the stairs are iconic and burned into the collective memory.
Watching the film today, Nosferatu seems to exist outside of normal reality. He must be one of the first genuine horror characters in film…
True. It’s the reason why surrealist artists were so attracted by the nightmarish nature of the images. Ellen Hutter’s (the main protagonist) walk across a wooden bridge into Count Orlok’s sphere of power occurs several times in the surrealists’ work and perfectly encapsulates their beliefs on dreams and waking consciousness.
Why weave contemporary artworks into the exhibition?
We’ve tried to enrich the meanings present in the film for a 21st century audience. Take the case of artist Louise Lawler: her alienating dye-sublimation print feels perfectly aligned with the sinister aspects of the film. The works of the Australian artist Tracey Moffatt use the silent film, and the figure of Nosferatu
himself, to address postcolonial themes.
We’ve tried to enrich the meanings present in the film for a 21st century audience.
The filmmakers used an intriguing and rich source of visual references…
Many of the motifs refer to art or illustrate works of fantastic literature. In a famous etching by Goya – which we’ve included in the exhibition – the pose of the figure is exactly the same as the pose of a character in the film.
Have you addressed the antisemitic claims that Count Orlok, inverting the life of Christ (negative immortality), represented the figure of the “Eternal Jew”?
The original screenplay contains motifs that can be interpreted as antisemitic, but Murnau, the director, partly refrained from implementing them. Though, in Orlok’s communication with the house broker, Knock, these tropes emerge more openly. We’ve addressed these motifs in the exhibition, but without emphasising this reading as central to the film.
The dark halls of the Scharf-Gerstenberg Collection are the perfect location for this exhibition…
The gallery space used to be stables and thus are suited for this dimly-lit exhibition. Additionally, the Scharf-Gerstenberg Collection’s focus on the art of the fantastic and surrealism meant that we could enter into a dialogue with works taken directly from the museum’s permanent exhibition.
- Phantoms of the Night: 100 Years of Nosferatu, through Apr 23, Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg, Charlottenburg
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