The terms “remix” and “German Expressionism” are not two things that one would assume would go together. But anyone who has watched director David Lee Fisher’s feature-film remix of one of the first horror films, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, knows that for fans of horror and cinema alike, there is a lot to be gained from blending the magic of modern technology and the artistry that went into German filmmaking in the beginning of cinema. After working together on 2005’s Caligari, character actor Doug Jones and Fisher are teaming up again to remix another horror film classic: F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu with Fisher in the director’s chair once again and Jones playing the horrifying Count Orlok.
Earlier this week Fisher and Jones launched the crowd funding campaign looking to raise $60,000 to bring the remix to life and we had a chance to discuss the project with both Fisher and Jones, learning about their intentions, ambitions and why this film speaks to them almost 100 years later.
First, according to Fisher, how will the visual remix for Nosferatu differ from Caligari? In addition to the advancements in technology, Fisher said, “When we did Caligari we were sticking pretty close to the original style, but it was also out of necessity that we had – the original style was, put the camera on sticks and put it on the ground and shoot the same shot without moving the camera and that was the original style, they started cranking the camera and then people entered, almost like a play, but what I want to do on Nosferatu is be able to unchain the camera. So, we’ll have a lot more camera movement, a lot more of an ability to track shots, to dolly in and out and that will bring a lot more visual excitement to the film.” Fisher continued, “When did Caligari we were doing a really close to the bone homage. This is more of an updated version so, that’s one thing. Also, the ability to add color. We’re going to add our own coloring to it. Were still kind of playing with that but I don’t want it to just be a pure black and white film.”
When it comes to the Count, we’ve seen Orlok portrayed more on the monstrous side by Max Schreck in Murnau’s version and slightly more sympathetic in Werner Herzog’s 1979 version. According to writer/director Fisher, where would his Orlok fall on the spectrum? Fisher told us, “We’ve talked about it a little bit and the concept is to view Orlok as more of a force of nature and by watching the original film, I kind of think that’s what Murnau was going for and that’s the fact that there’s these forces in the world. You have Orlok who is the dark, almost sucking the life blood, the soul out of you, and you have Ellen who is kind of the good and the light side, and of course Hutter who is kind of the oblivious person who just doesn’t see any of this. It’s almost like they’re magic forces… So, I view the new Orlok as very elemental so he will be not just acting evil because he’s decided to, that’s just his nature. He’s just like a simple force so instead of being sympathetic he’s more like a tidal wave or a tornado. He just exists; he’s neither evil or good, he’s just a destructive force.”
Actor Doug Jones also weighed in on his upcoming portrayal of Count Orlok explaining of the process, “So far, we’ve discussed Count Orlok as he relates more to the look and feel of the original Murnau version. And it’s my understanding that we’ll be using imagery and backdrops from that original film with David digitally combining the old and the new as he did with our 2005 version of The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari. That being said, I do also connect with the sadder side of misunderstood monster characters, so I’m feeling a tap into the sympathetic coming, as well.”
For Jones, who has often said he’d like to play Count Orlok, what is it about the character that intrigues him? “I’m often told I was born in the wrong decade, that I would have done well to have blossomed as an actor during the silent era. I’ve always been romanced by the classic vampire tales, and it’s Count Orlok who takes me back to where it all began on film. Max Schreck is also one of those tall, thin actors who gave me hope that there was a place for me in the film industry when I was an awkward, tall, skinny kid in Indiana dreaming of playing a role like his one day.” Jones continued, “I do love finding that place of tragic personal conflict these classic vampires embody. Being lured by immortality, but sacrificing the joys of normal mortal life. So many of us can relate to a time in our lives when we wanted to chuck it all and make a massive change like this, only to realize later, we may have been hasty and that there are repercussions. And in this case those choices are forever. I suppose to me, these sad, hungry vampires represent caution and taking time to think through our decisions in this life. ”