From Nosferatu to Thirst, films have tried to capture the shadowy, seductive figure of the vampire. Writer Anne Billson chronicles the creature’s evolution.
Slide Two: Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)
Nosferatu, F.W. Murnau's unofficial silent adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, the first vampire film ever made, established many of what would later become familiar conventions of vampire cinema: the thirst for blood, superstitious peasants, plagues of rats, the destructive power of sunlight and vampirism as metaphor for disease. It also conveys the sexual power of Stoker's novel; Max Schreck's Graf von Orlok may look like a hideous walking cadaver with his bald head, pointy teeth and long fingernails, but from the first glimpse of his outrageously phallic-shaped castle to the final scenes of the self-sacrificing heroine surrendering to him with an erotic abandon entirely lacking from her scenes with her human fiancé, he's a potent symbol of the dark side of desire. The film also evokes geographical distance––something lost in subsequent adaptations as air-travel and telecommunications have shrunk the globe; in the shots of the doomed ship Demeter being tossed around on the ocean, there's a palpable sense of a distant contagion creeping ever closer to home. From Varna, on the Black Sea, all the way round to Bremen in North Germany is an epic voyage at the best of times, let alone in a coffin packed with earth.