Monday, 23 June 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1979: Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu the Vampyre

Klaus Kinski did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Count Dracula in Nosferatu the Vampyre.

Nosferatu the Vampyre is an atmospheric and very effective remake of the original silent Nosferatu by Werner Herzog.

This is the first time I have reviewed a performance by the infamous Klaus Kinski, but interestingly here he is following another actors footsteps. That of course being Max Schreck who played the monster in Nosferatu, and since it is a remake of that film rather than another adaptation of the novel Kinski's approach in conception shares many similarities with Schreck's performance. Kinski replicates many of the qualities of Schreck's performance most notably the way he seems to stand in a way in which he looks unnatural thin, and particularly oddly shaped. Kinski manages to replicate the physical mannerisms of Schreck while doing enough to make them him own, and it never seems as though Kinski is simply just trying to ape Schreck's performance. Kinski does make the character his own.

This is not the normal vampire seeming to come from a rat rather than a bat, and in both cases the vampire seems to be a personification of death and decay as the vampire brings the death of the plague wherever he goes. Kinski adds to his own portrayal of the monstrous elements of the monster utilizing the fact that he gets to use sound to his advantage. Kinski speaks and even breaths in a peculiar way as if he were a dying man. Kinski creates this odd monsters in a chilling and oddly believable fashion but this Dracula purpose is a bit different than Schreck's Count Orlok, Schreck sought to mainly realize this monster in all his terror, which he certainly achieved, but Kinski's performance actually has some more humanity to it. This can actually be seen in one of the main visual differences between the two versions which is found in the eyes.

The most human feature on this monster is in his eyes and Kinski utilizes this well to show a constant sadness and sorrow in his expression. Kinski brings a somberness to Dracula, and although he obviously makes him a monster, Kinski never forgets the man who must have once been there. Instead of revealing in his evil, Kinski does not show even a moment where Dracula seems to enjoy the havoc and pain that he is causing for others. Kinski portrays Dracula in a constant depression and is even quite moving as he states his pain from being an immortal monster. This whole idea may seem quite strange or could potentially make not make Dracula particularly frightening. Well Kinski never allows that create a palatable dread through his performance as the evil, but as well doing just as much in terms of humanizing Dracula.

Kinski is outstanding by somehow finding a balance that seems natural for this odd creation. The most fascinating part of his performance are his scenes with Lucy Harker (Isabella Adjani) where Dracula approaches her obviously going to eventually be going for blood but there is something more than that. Dracula wants her to love him and what is so notable about Kinksi's performance is he does not play this as lust of blood or of sexual desire. Kinski instead somehow manages to be very strangely poignant in his portrayal as he shows Dracula asking for this love in such a tender fashion. Kinski does not make his Dracula a monster looking to sustain his own constant and uncontrollable desires, rather his portrayal makes the monster more of a cursed man who is simply trying to either end his torture or find some sort of comfort in it.

As is often the case with Dracula films Kinski's screen time is not substantial as Dracula often disappears for somewhat extended periods to make his sudden appearances all the more disconcerting. This certainly works well in the case of this film as Dracula's presence can be felt even when he is off screen which is a testament to the collaborative effort of both Kinski and Herzog. Kinski's portrayal here is great as he manages to follow the very difficult footsteps set up by Schreck quite deftly yet he still manages to make this seem like his own unique take on the very frequently portrayed character. Kinski gives a very memorable and haunting turn in creating the terror of the inhuman monster that is Dracula while somehow, without contradicting himself, showing that perhaps there is some form of humanity still to be found in such a creature.


RatedRStar said...

I am glad the world has film makers like Herzog, Cronenberg and Lynch, for every straight forward film there should always be a challenging and mysterious film to stimulate the mind =D.

RatedRStar said...

I am pretty sure this wont be the last time we see the mad genius that is Klaus Kinski =D.

Matt Mustin said...

Oh, I'm positive this won't be his only review.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Interestingly, this is the one collaboration with Herzog where he caused no trouble on set. He was inexplicably friendly, even with the four hour makeup sessions.

Michael McCarthy said...

Wasn't he requested for Aguirre a while back?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I think he was. Confession time; I sort of hate Aguirre.

Michael Patison said...

I don't know if he was requested, but I must sort of agree with Robert. I don't really hate Aguirre, but I'm mostly just bored by it. Sure, Kinski is great, but even he isn't all he's cracked up to be, in my opinion.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I usually HATE saying a movie was dull, but... I don't have any other way to describe my feelings. It felt too meandering, too unfocused. I couldn't get into it. Kinski was fine, but not the cancer-curing performance I've been led to believe he gave. I guess I can't like every classic.

Michael Patison said...

I really couldn't agree more.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Off topic, but what do you think of the following Game of Thrones performances, Louis?

Maisie Williams
Lena Headey
Conleth Hill
Liam Cunningham
Iwan Rheon

Louis Morgan said...


Maisie Williams - (She's excelled at giving possibly the most extreme character arc in the show. She starts out well in the first season in playing the tomboy without overdoing it and still showing that Arya is a little girl. Her performance in Bean's last scene is particularly moving. She is great though as she manages to be completely convincing in her portrayal of Arya's growing embitterment and viciousness as one tragedy after another befalls her)

Lena Headey - (Headey I think perhaps does go for the melodrama slightly too often I suppose but I think it does completely work for Cersei as character. I also have to simply give her credit as she does have some dynamite moments throughout the series particularly her final scene in "Blackwater")

Conleth Hill - (Ah easily my favorite of the double dealers of the small council as I still feel I don't know exactly what Varys is up to. Hill is great in creating the illusion of Varys as the soft foreigner, but undercuts it with his portrayal of the sly manipulator. He does well to have those seemingly honest moments with Tyrion although even those Hill still appropriately leaves a question mark)

Liam Cunningham - (I think I've liked Cunningham in everything I've seen him in. Anyway I think he makes a great Ser Davos bringing the right passionate conviction to his performance and does well to give one of the most earnest and honest depictions of devotion and decency in the show)

Iwan Rheon - (Definitely not an underplayed performance to say the least. I think his rather extreme, and perhaps even slightly absurd approach works quite well for the insanity of Ramsay Snow)

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

One of my favorite things about Hill are the expressions he has in the background of a scene.