Monday, August 17, 2009

When Audiences Attack

A while ago one of my pals commented that, in the past, people all wanted to be cool, but now they all want to be funny. I see where she is coming from. Things like Facebook updates or Twitter posts are too short for you to say anything of consequence, but they are ideally suited to the bon môt. It seems, though, that many people have not advanced so far that they can aspire to being funny themselves, so instead they just look to find everything they encounter funny – no matter what it is.

Thus it was that when I went to a showing in Christchurch Cathedral of the F.W. Murnau classic Nosferatu, I found myself sitting in front of some easily amused old bints who guffawed away as this classic of 20th century unfolded. Sadly, these three hellspawn were not unrepresentative of the audience as a whole. Here I was, watching one of the greatest films ever made, while these many enemies of good taste hooted and honked their way along.

The whole experience was made even more depressing by the film being accompanied by some David Briggs fellow extemporising on the organ. The organ music and the suitably gothic setting for the showing could have made for a most atmospheric of evenings, but these suckfaces made it one that I was glad to see ended.

There are, in fairness, some elements of Nosferatu that would raise a smile to even the most discerning film goer's face. The guy who plays the Harker character is a bit hammy in the rumbunctiousness he displays in the film's early scenes. The scene where the Count loads the cart with coffins must have looked pretty flash back in the days when no one had ever thought of speeding up footage, but now it just looks like something from Benny Hill.

But for all those comedic elements, the film as a whole has a terrible grandeur. Max Shreck, as the Count, inhabits his role with a sense of terrible malevolence, nevertheless communicating the terrible loneliness of the undead. There is a real emotional power to the scenes where he is staring at Mina – there is something more here than just the leering bloodlust of the damned, almost a sense of longing on his part, a desperate hope that in consuming her lifeblood he can somehow restore his own humanity.

Nosferatu is a film I keep watching, finding it one that repays endless viewings. See it yourself and understand why.

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