REVIEW: Nosferatu @ Newcastle Castle | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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During the gripping final moments of Nosferatu, actor Max Shreck’s bottom lip wobbles, almost imperceptibly. 94 years ago Schreck – playing the titular vampire – delivered a sublime instant of blanching comprehension as the horrific Count Orlock realises his fate is sealed. A detail I’d never noticed in a film I’ve seen countless times.

So it was, that after multiple viewings across a number of versions across an even greater number of years, this night with Nosferatu in the Great Hall of the Castle Keep became one of my favourite experiences of this remarkable piece of cinema.

Loomed over by the high ceiling and thick, musty sandstone of the grandest room in the castle, just over sixty of us huddled together with a wet, whistly wind doing its worst to worm its way through our scarves and extra jumpers, popcorn in hand with goosebumps equally divided between an entirely appropriate funereal chill and the prospect of watching the granddaddy of cinematic horror in a non-more suitable setting.

With the majority of the crowd experiencing the landmark film for the first time, the initial chuckles at the larger-than-life, overly-emphatic acting of the era dwindled after the first 20 minutes as the oppressive, haunting atmosphere of the film worked its sinister magic, exquisitely complemented by the dank ambiance of the Castle Keep itself.

While not quite at the blistering level of grandeur as the 2013 BFI restoration, this still-stunning 2006 version played brilliantly when bunched up-close to the big screen, the mesmerising fine detail of the actors and sets standing out beautifully amongst the overwhelming expressionistic shadows and angles of this Weimar-era masterpiece.

The vampire rising bolt upright from a coffin of cursed earth. The man frozen with fear as the undead hovers over him. The abandoned ship sailing into port. The clawed shadow creeping up a staircase. The pointed hands. The unblinking eyes. The glistening teeth. The vampire’s lip, trembling in the only instance of fear inflected upon – and not caused by – the Count himself. The imagery is foul, seething, and iconic; the detail transcendent.

It will be hard to top such a perfectly staged screening. But then, from a single, nearly destroyed original print through to the beautifully restored version we are blessed with today, the dreadful legend of Count Orlock continues to grow, and on the cusp of his second century of life, his future looks to be in rude health indeed.

Nosferatu screens again at Newcastle on Sunday 29th November.

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