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Movie Reviews

Shadow Of The Vampire  

F.W. Murnau (John Malkovich)
Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe)
Fritz Wagner (Cary Elwes)
Albin Grau (Udo Kier)
Greta (Catherine McCormack) Directed by E. Ellias Merhige Written by Steven Katz
Rated R for sexuality, violence, drug content and language
Running Time: 93 minutes Distributed by Lions Gate Films

Shadow of the Vampire
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Shadow of the Vampire is a kinetic and brilliantly created film. The film centers on the secrets of German filmmaker F.W. Murnau (Malkovich) and the making of his 1920ís vampire masterpiece Nosferatu. Nosferatu is a silent film that was the first ever vampire film that almost replicated Bram Stokerís novel of Dracula. Murnau was a precise and obsessive filmmaker that wanted every shot in Nosferatu to be perfect. His vision was to create the most realistic vampire film ever. While Murnau and his crew are shooting the film in Eastern Europe, the crew is introduced to Max Schreck (Dafoe), who is playing the vampire role of Count Orlock. Both amazed and frightened by Schreckís presence along with his appearance, Murnau explains that he is a method actor that is so deep in his character that he only comes out at night to shoot scenes and he is only seen in full makeup. As the filming of Nosferatu progresses, more of the crew begins to tragically die by lack of blood. The remainder of the cast and crew begin to question Murnau of who is Max Schreck and where did he find him.

Shadow of the Vampire is a unique and very entertaining dark comedy. The story of Murnau, his film and his crew are presentably portrayed with a ďlegend-likeĒ twist of horror.

E. Elias Merhige very calmly, but exquisitely directs Shadow of the Vampire. His direction sort of reflected Murnauís style, which was simple, precise and most of all effective. Some of the best choices by Merhige are how he presents the cameraís point of view through the lenses of the making of Nosteratu. The director blends in a dark atmospheric shots with purposely-lit scenes of comedy and crucial moments. His choices mostly show Murnauís vision, but he also shows the ticks of the other characters like Schreck, and the producer Albin (Kier). The only real complaint I had about Merhigeís choices is that the opening credits of the film drag on, but that aspect is very microscopic compared to the rest of his work in this film.

Stephen Katz delivers a memorable screenplay, which pulls in all the real aspects of Murnauís film shoot with some fictionalized parts. After seeing this film, I researched Katz, Murnauís story, and the story behind the production of Nosteratu. Katz does tie-in a lot of the weird things the director would do. An example is that most of his crew would wear white lab coats and goggles to almost reflect mad scientists. Katz also dug and dug on research about all the legends and unexplained decisions that Murnau would make while filming. Thus leading to his interpretation of the actor Max Schreck. Schreck was a real actor that played Count Orlock in Nosferatu. I read that he looked so real with his ears, face, hands, and eyes that many movie watchers in the 1920ís were horrified into wondering if he was a real vampire. Katz balances all the brilliant characters like Max Schreck with comical darkness. His script in a far sense, reminded me of what Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman did with Shakespeare in Love, which is to take some historical art facts and create it into an interpretative story. Katzís story is a lot of fun to watch unfold.

Over the last month, I have been saying that Benicio Del Toro will take home an Oscar for his supporting role in Traffic. However, after seeing Shadow of the Vampire, Willem Dafoe might sneak in behind Del Toro and take home his first Oscar. Dafoe just does an incredible job as the mysterious Max Schreck. Covered with makeup, weird teeth, and long fingernails, Dafoe has a blast with this character and delivers some of the best laughs of any film to come out in the year 2000. I thought that Dafoe was sort of falling off the map with his acting over the last few years, but this performance is the best he has delivered since his riveting portrayal in Platoon. John Malkovich once again plays a weird character as the obsessive Murnau. However, the actor does a commendable job with reflecting the famous director. In my opinion, Malkovich is a great character actor, and this performance only helps his reputation. In addition to these two leads of the film, Catherine McCormack, Udi Kier and Cary Elwes also turn in contributable performances in Shadow of the Vampire.

Shadow of the Vampire is a good dark comedy that is also unique with its storyline and vampirism. I donít know if many audiences will like this film, I guess because it some might not like its tone and nature. I do believe that this film will become a cult classic once it hits video and also watch out for Dafoe to steal the Oscar.

Report Card Grade: B+

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