is one of the most famous Horror films of all time. And now, the making of
director FW Murnaus 1921 silent masterpiece Nosferatu is being
used as the backdrop for a new Fantasy movie exploring the terror of
creativity. Shadow of the Vampire tells the story of how the homosexual
Murnau plagiarized Bram Stokers Dracula to craft the archetypal
But Shadow of the
Vampire is much more than a lesson about the early days of German
expressionism or the Gods and Monsters in Murnaus life. What director
Elias Merhiges deconstruction does is throw a few What ifs
into the sinister scenario. What if Schreck was a real vampire and Murnau
sought him out solely for that reason to give absolute truth to his work? And
what if Schreck couldnt keep his blood-drinking in check and started
draining the other cast members, becoming the focus of police attention?
Elias Merhige explained,
Shadow of the Vampire is not an homage to Murnau or silent cinema.
Its not even totally accurate to history. Im using Murnau as a way
of communicating what the idea of creative genius has become in the 20th
century. Our creativity has become so ferocious and so beyond our comprehension
that we are terrorising ourselves with it... I wanted to explore the vampiric
nature of the cinematic medium."
Shadow of the Vampire
happened because of actress Patricia Arquette. Merhige continued, She
gave her husband, Nicolas Cage, the video of Begotten (Merhiges
first movie, a 1991 slice of avant-garde Horror which has only ever played on
the late night cult circuit in America and never been released in Europe) for
his birthday. Nic is a big fan of silent cinema and black-and-white
Begotten, fell in love with its originality, found out I was living in
Los Angeles and asked to meet me. Hed just started this production
company a few months before [with Jeff Levine, called Saturn Films] and figured
if I was halfway sane, there might be something theyd like me to work
"Nic politely asked me to
read the Shadow of the Vampire script written by Steven Katz. I read it
and became completely besotted because, by deconstructing the making of
Nosferatu, it created a new mythology around the idea of creating
images. It was also about an art form in its infancy in a Germany soon to face
a dramatic loss of innocence. Irresistible."
Shooting started on Shadow
of the Vampire on April 8 in Luxembourg, whose tax breaks allowed the $6
million budget to stretch another $2 million. Starring in the film are John
Malkovich as Murnau, Willem Dafoe as Schreck, Udo Kier as Grau, John Gillett as
Galeen, Catherine McCormack as Greta and Eddie Izzard as Gustav.
Merhige said, I was
immediately impressed that the script had attracted the attention of someone
like John Malkovich. I was nervous the first time I met him and Willem. I was
convinced theyd look at me and say Youre not a proper
director, get out of here! But meeting them both was like meeting old
friends and they responded to the script brilliantly. I wanted to get John
pregnant with the Murnau I wanted to put on screen and by the time he arrived
on the set he had a hundred other thoughts and inspirations.