Silent classic ‘Nosferatu’ will go bump in the night at Jule Collins Smith Museum


Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art screens ‘Nosferatu’
AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University, will screen the 1922 silent horror film “Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror” on Sunday, Oct. 27, at 2 p.m. and Thursday, Oct. 31, at 5 p.m. in the Martin-Perricone Auditorium.

In this German Expressionist adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” a real estate clerk travels on business to meet the mysterious and bloodthirsty Count Orlok, who takes an interest not only in Hutter’s property arrangement but also an obsessive interest in Hutter’s fiancée, Ellen.

Both screenings are free to the public with costumes welcome. Auditorium seating is limited, so advance registration is encouraged on the museum’s website via the Eventbrite application. For Thursday’s screening, the Museum Café will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. with a tapas menu and expanded beverage service. For more information, go to www.jcsm.auburn.edu or call (334) 844-1484.

Over the years, film and TV productions have depicted the legend of vampires and Dracula in different ways. Deron Overpeck, an assistant professor in the Radio Television Film program in the School of Communications and Journalism at Auburn, said that in the film “Nosferatu,” the vampire does not look like the creature audiences have come to expect who were played by the suave Bela Lugosi, the regal Christopher Lee or the tragic Gary Oldman.

“Rather than being a suave ladies’ man or a cruel baron, Count Orlok seems to have evolved from vermin, looking and behaving very much like a rat,” Overpeck said. “This is reinforced by the film’s evocation of the plague, which was brought to Europe by rats on trading ships.”

Overpeck said the director, F.W. Murnau, used shots of the shadowy Count Orlok climbing the staircase to emphasize his stark evil. “Orlock has no redeeming qualities,” he said. “The shadow seems to present him as creeping, sliding into spaces, and elongating himself to infect the light.”Overpeck said that the chiaroscuro lighting style – with its dramatic contrasts of light and dark – as well as exaggerated acting to convey internal turmoil, demonstrate that “Nosferatu” is part of the Expressionist film style that experienced a revival in the decade after the end of World War I.

Overpeck said when he has shown the film in class, his students usually enjoyed it despite the fact that it is a silent black and white film. “They respond to the grotesqueness of Orlok, to the perverse shadows and to the shot of his pale white head hovering over Ellen’s sacrificed body.”

Marilyn Laufer, museum director, said that Murnau likely found early inspiration in the work of German Expressionist painters at the turn of the century and designed his stage set and crafted his camera angles with that movement in mind. “When you consider work by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff and Emil Nolde, you will notice jagged edges, mask-like faces, and distortion,” she said. “These artists, and others of the movement, had a way of abstracting the real world and making it a disorienting kind of space.

Laufer said that visitors to the museum’s galleries can see a very early example of German Expressionism in Käthe Kollwitz’s etching “Losbruch (Uprising)” that is part of the museum’s permanent collection and is in the exhibition, “JCSM@10: A Decade of Collecting.”

(Contributed by Charlotte Hendrix.)

Contact: Charlotte Hendrix, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University (334) 844-7075 (charlotte.hendrix@auburn.edu), or Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)