Greta Garbo

Monday, January 30, 2023

Scott Lord Silent Film: Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922)


The film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's account of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde directed by F.W. Murnau during 1920 is presumed lost, with no known existing copies of the film. "The Head of Janus" (Der Janus Kopf, Love's Mockery) had starred Conrad Veidt amd Bela Lugosi and is credited with having been one of the first films to include the use of the moving-camera shot. F.W. Murnau made 21 feature films, 8 of which are presumed lost, with no surviving copies. Included among them is the 1920 horror film "The Hunchback and the Dancer" (Der Bucklige und die Tanzerin) photographed by Karl Freund.

Lotte H. Eisner, in his biography titled Murnau, looks at a scene change to the shooting script of "Nosferatu" written by Henrik Galeen made by the director, F.W. Murnau, but adds that few additons and revisions to the original script were made by Murnau. "Sometimes the film is different than the scenario though Murnau had not indicated any change in the script...But there is a suprising sequence in which nearly twelve pages (thirteen sequences) have been rewritten by Murnau."

Lotte H. Eisner analyzes the film "Nosferatu" in his companion volume to his biography of Murnau, The Haunted Screen. "Nature participates in the action. Sensitive editing makes the bounding waves foretell the approach of the vampire." Eisner later adds, "Murnau was one of the few German film-directors to have the innate love of the landscape more typical of the Swedes (Arthur von Gerlach, creator of Die Chronik von Grieshums, was another) and hes was always reluctant to resort to artifice."

Lotte H. Eisner, in her volume Murnau, writes, "As always, Murnau found visual means of suggesting unreality". Professor David Thorburn, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, expresses aprreciation and gratitude for the author's writings pointing out that "her arguments in The Haunted Screen are still widely accepted." In regard to the expression of unreality, David Thorburn sees Expressionism as having been typified by "distortion and surreal exaggation" as well as having been "interested in finding equivalents for he inner life, dramatizing not the external world, but the world within us." If not the first horror film, Thorburn delegates "Nosferatu" to being an "origin film" and as "the film in which we can see Murnau freeing the camera.....no one had ever used the camera outdoorsmore effectively up to this time than Murnau". Lotte H Eisner, in The Haunted Screen writes, "The Landscape and views of e little town and the castle in Nosferatu were filmed on location...Murnau, however, making Nosferatu with a minimum of resourses saw all that nature had to offer in the way of fine images...Nature participates in the action."

Silent Film Silent Horror Film Faust (F.W. Murnau, 1926)

Scott Lord Silent Film: The Great Train Robbery (Porter,1903)


Vladimir Petric in A Visual/Analytical History of Silent Film (1895-1930), Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, notes Porter's "The Great Train Robbery" as a "primitive use of parralel editing to dramatize the narrative". Not only is this in sharp contrast to the earlier cinema of attractions that relegated storytelling to the act of display, but the film is significant as the first film made in the Western genre. It is uncanny that the closing shot, as a subjective shot, is an attraction, something static and something dispalyed, urging the spectatator to draw and shoot back. Patric Vonderau and Vinzenz Hedigar have written, "The visuality of the display, however, is still indispensible to its effect."- albeit their recent volume, Films That Work, is primarily concerned with international industrial films.

Whether crosscutting began with Edwin S. Porter and "The Great Train Robbery", a film which is attributed as having used croscutting in the volume The Film Idea, written by Stanley J. Solomon, or whether it was more properly developed by D.W. Griffith around 1908, as with the parallel editing in the 1907 films "The Greaser's Gauntlet" and "The Fatal Hour" (Phillipe Gauthier, Harvard University), author Stanley Solomon points out that crosscutting was intrinsiclly cinematic, rather than dramaturgical or theatrical by describing it as "a technique suitable to the form of cinema but unnatural to the form of nineteenth century stage drama, which was at that time a significant influence on the new media." A recent online film class on how to "read" a film from described the film as being comprised of "seperate shots of non-continuous, non-overlapping action" while being careful to designate the film as an early example of crosscutting.

Film historian Charles Mussur, in Before the Nickelodeon :Edwin S. Porter, writes, "Porter's film meticulously documents a process...The film's narrative structure, as Gaudreault notes, utilizes temporal repetition with an overall narrative progression." As narrative it was essentially a reenactment film. He adds that "Porter exploied procedures that heighten the realism and believabilty of the image" (David Levy).

Silent Film Silent Film D. W. Griffith

Scott Lord Silent Film: The Eclipse (Georges Melies, 1907)

Stanely J Solomon, in his volume The Film Idea, attribures George Melies with being a film pioneer, "The following film techniques were popularized- and some perhaps invented by Melies: double exposure, stop motion, fast motion, slow motion, animation, fades and dissolves." Silent Film Geroge Melies, A Trip the the Moon