You probably know I have a cat named Nosferatu, named for the old silent vampire film. When he was adopted, I had never seen the film, I only knew its legacy (and I figured the name would fit nicely with his sister Lestat). I soon bought the DVD so I could finally enjoy this film I had heard so much about, and also to give my vampire kitty proper education about his fanged heritage. The problem was that while the print of this old silent has been restored, much of the score has been lost. This DVD had two alternative options: one was pure pipe organ, the other a bit more varied. I couldn’t stand either. The organ fit well, but got annoying after a few minutes. The other was just bad. It didn’t fit at all and was hardly melodic. I spent a whole Saturday afternoon trying to watch the film, but kept on falling asleep to terrible music. I gave up.
Then a few weeks ago I get an email from Secret Movie Club, the same crew that organized the Jurassic Park screening I went to a few months ago. These emails are kinda messy and wordy, and haven’t had anything worth watching since JP. But this email had a line that caught my eye. It pointed out films that were likely to sell out, including a screening of Nosferatu in a month and a half. A screening that would include a live ensemble accompanying the film with an original score. I could not give them my money fast enough. This was bucket list, not just seeing a silent film with live music, but that it’s THIS film. Especially since the biggest impediment to me watching it before was the score. As an added bonus, it was my bday weekend (not that I really made it a bday thing, but it still felt like it was scheduled just for me).
Here’s a little movie history in case you’re still looking at this post having no idea what film I’m talking about. Nosferatu is a 1922 (yes, you read that year correctly) silent film by FW Murnau. It’s basically Dracula, but for legal reasons the names and ending and other details were changed. But no really, if you’re moderately familiar with the Dracula story, you’ve got this one down. It would become the playbook that so many future vampire films would draw from, and at one point it was considered so terrifying that it was banned in several countries.
There are some charms to a silent film that you don’t see today. But quirks aside, it still works as a very compelling film. It’s truly a work of art in a way that few are capable of. The score fit it perfectly and absolutely made the experience so much more special. Also, every time the narration cards said something sinister about the “Nosferatu” I kept thinking it was talking about my cat.