Film festival fun with Nosferatu
The Whitley Bay Film Festival is here again! I set off with my torch and my blanket to the hottest ticket in the festival this week, which was a showing of the 1922 classic film version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu. The film was shown in an amazing venue of Seaton Delaval Hall. This beautiful National Trusr property has its amazing views out over the beautiful Northumberland coast.
With its grand hall was partially ruined by fire. The ruined roof is now covered over and being restored making this is an incredibly atmospheric venue. What an incredible setting for this iconic film, which is now almost 100 years old.
The hall fringed with statues looking down on us all, was lit with candles and red lighting inside creating an spooky ambiance. Word is that there is a real life ghost here, and there are certainly real bats in the rafters. Would they put in a appearance this evening? The quirkiest coolest film festival in the North was about to begin!
Nosferatu – silently scary
We sipped our Pimms and lemonade in the reception area of the hall and then took our seats to see this slice of German expressionistic horror. Nosferatu, a symphony of horror, was filmed in 1922 and directed by F.W. Murnau. It stars Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok and was an unauthorised adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) Names were changed but Stoker’s heirs sued over copyright and the court ruled that all copies of the film be destroyed. However a few prints survived and the film came to be regarded as an influential cinematic masterpiece.
The hero is Thomas Hutter who lives in the fictional German city of Wisborg. Hutter is sent by the estate agent Knock (never trust an estate agent) to visit a new client, Count Orlok. The hapless messenger sets off to Transylvania leaving his vulnerable wife behind. Ignoring warnings from the locals Hutter is swept up by a spooky coach into Count Orlok’s castle.
Meeting Count Orlok
Hutter wakes up in a deserted castle the morning after he arrives. He notices fresh puncture holes on his neck which, in a letter he sends by courier to be delivered to his devoted wife, he attributes to mosquitoes. That night, Orlok signs the documents to purchase the house across from Hutter’s own home in Wisborg. He notices a photo of Hutter’s wife, and remarks that she has a “lovely neck.”
Hutter starts to suspect that Orlok is Nosferatu, the “Bird of Death.” He cowers in his room as midnight approaches, but there is no way to bar the door. The door opens by itself and Orlok enters, his true nature finally revealed. Hutter hides under the bed covers and falls unconscious.
Exploring the castle, Hutter finds the coffin in which Orlok rests during the day, and Hutter is horrified. In search of a juicy neck to bite, Orlok sets off with his coffins on a ship. During the journey he manages to dispatch the entire crew. Arriving in Wisborg, because of the deaths on the ship, the towns people think that the plague has arrived.
Nosferatu attacks the innocent Ellen
Hutter’s wife Ellen reads a book about how to defeat vampires. It claims that the way to do this is for a woman who is pure in heart to distract the vampire with her beauty all through the night. Orlok turns up and she submits to the supernatural blood sucker.
Nosferatu becomes so engrossed drinking her blood that he forgets about the coming daylight. Nosferatu dies, destroyed by the dawn rays of the sun. Ellen lives just long enough to be embraced by her grief-stricken husband. The last scene shows Count Orlok’s ruined castle in the Carpathian Mountains, symbolizing the end of his reign of terror.
Nosferatu – a powerful performance
Schrek’s performance is extraordinary. Without recourse to CGI or anything much in the way of special effects, apart from scary make up, he is a frightening figure indeed. In fact, the acting is curiously modern at times and without sound, conveys the story with a convincing clarity.
The Mediators provided an amazing live electronic soundtrack to the entire film. The musicians improvised sound and melody to accompany this dark tale. The music is more akin to jazz than electronica, and reminded me a little bit of Kraftwerk from time to time. They interpreted the film beautifully with squeaking electronics when the rats came running out of the coffins. They even added a few distorted bars of the Onedin line echoing through the hall, as the ghostly ship carrying the vampire drifted into the frame.
Nosferatu – bats in the belfry!
As the narrator spoke about the strangeness of nature, the real Delaval Hall bats put in a live appearance. They actually swooped past the screen with incredible grace. It was the icing on the creepy cake.
Nosferatu is a weirdly wonderful film, dreamlike and memorable. The incredible historic setting magnified the impact of the film. The lights of the hall lit up the windows like a face from the front, and the bats in the belfry only added to the eerie atmosphere.
We did have some trouble finding our way out back to the car park in the pitch dark, despite having a couple of torches. Eventually after quite a lot of mincing backwards and forwards, we found our way out of the grounds. It was easy to imagine the ghostly figure of Nosferatu floating above us, and it gave us a few shivers.
A great night, and a unique experience, I can’t wait to see what’s next at the fabulous Whitley Bay Film Festival! Check out my blog about Seaton Delaval Hall here to find more about the colourful history of this imposing stately home!