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Sound vs. Silence
The most apparent difference between Dracula and Nosferatu is that one was made while film was still without sound-at least dialogue-and the other was not. This difference, though not a revelation in itself, leads to a great number of much more in-depth contrasts that deserve discussion.
In making a silent film, a director must rely on sight-and a certain amount of text-to portray to the audience his intended emotional, and intellectual reaction. As a result of this, the director is not able to go into in-depth character development with the same kind of resources as a director of film that is not silent. In the case of Nosferatu, this leads to a very limited number of characters have any kind of depth whatsoever. This is not to say that every character does not have about him or herself a certain image, or that every character does not extract a certain emotion from the audience. It is simply to say that a great number of characters in Nosferatu use only image to achieve their desired effect. For example, in Dracula, if one were to see Dracula walking down the street, an adverse reaction would be somewhat illfounded. Outside of his clothes, Dracula is a normal looking person. In Nosferatu, however, Dracula is more or less a freak. The end result of this is the audience having the same image of Dracula in both movies, one achieved this through extensive dialogue, and one simply through the appearance of a character. Another example, in Dracula, the first character that is given any kind of development whatsoever is Renfield, and throughout the movie, Renfield is transformed first to a blood sucking savage, and then slowly returned to a character with a heart, and a little bit of compassion. However, in Nosferatu, Renfield is already the blood sucking savage, cooped up in the loony bin, eating bugs when the movie starts, and the extent of his role seems to be nothing more than to provide more insight into the nature of Dracula.
Perhaps the most interesting contrast between the two movies is that although they are based on the same novel, their story lines do not coincide. This is apparent in the beginning when in Dracula, Renfield is the one who travels to Transylvania, whereas in Nosferatu, John Harker is the one who travels to Transylvania. It is not explicitly clear in Dracula who the owner of the property that Dracula purchases is; however, in Nosferatu, it is clear that John Harker is the owner, and his trip to Transylvainia is for the purpose of selling the property to Dracula. Furthermore, in Nosferatu, the discovery of the true nature of Dracula, and the one thing that will bring about his demise is made with the ease of finding a book brought back from Transylvainia by John Harker. However, in Dracula, the identity of Dracula is not revealed until the professor (a character with very little, if any impact in Nosferatu) makes a number of discoveries about his physical properties and habits. This is followed by a lengthy discussion where the professor reveals his findings, as well as what is necessary to bring down Dracula (which is also different in each film). These differences very well may be due to each directors interpretation of Bram Stoker's novel; however, it is quite possible that a number of them were a result of the fact that the director of Nosferatu was forced to work without sound. This would explain the removal of the professor's explanation of the phenomenon of vampires in favor for an explanation given by a book, which is easily converted to a text caption.
In addition to character development, and story line, there is also another difference between Nosferatu and Dracula that is the result of one film being in the silent medium. In Dracula, in order for the director to create a sense of fear or panic, all that was necessary was a scream or few words said with a voice filled with much distress. However, in Nosferatu, the director was forced to rely on the background music, or the physical orientations of the characters. In a sense, this would lead to more work for the director of Nosferatu. For example, in Dracula, there are many occasions where the camera turns away from a certain character to focus on an action somewhere else, and
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