Movie Review 2007 #157: Shadow of the Vampire

A little movie starring John Malkovich as F.W. Murnau, director of the seminal silent-era vampire film Nosferatu, and Willem Dafoe as Max Shreck, who is playing the vampire, perhaps with more authenticity than anyone realizes…

A little gem of a movie (and short, too, at 92 minutes), Shadow of the Vampire centers around the obsessive Murnau’s attempts to complete his film, at any cost. Chief among those costs is giving Shreck (Dafoe) a lot of latitude in his “method acting” of Count Orlock. Especially when he starts salivating over members of the crew…
Its a fun little movie that likes to use a lot of the camera tricks and techniques that were pioneered and used in the era, by directors like Murnau. In a sense, its a predecessor to a movie like The Illusionist in that regard, with the added bonus that this is a movie about making a movie.
The movie also shows us the conflict between commerce and art, as Murnau jukes and jives to try and keep his movie on track no matter what is thrown at him. And the difficulties of filming on location, and the need to find the “right shot”.And most of all, Dafoe’s most unglamorous vampire. In WW terms, he is definitely a repulsive Nosferatu, the antithesis of the “seductive and suave” vampire. This vampire is a repulsive monster.
Dafoe was nominated for a supporting Oscar for his portrayal of Shreck/Orlock, and he subsumes himself completely in the role. With the heavy makeup, and his convincing, full body performance, its difficult to tell that Orlock is being played BY an actor, Dafoe and otherwise.
I liked the movie, quite a bit, and it helped wash out the taste of my previous two cinematic disappointments nicely.