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SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE

SYNOPSIS:
Gifted 1920s German filmmaker Friedrich Murnau (John Malkovich) is making what he intends to be the most authentic scary movie ever – about a vampire. He drags his crew to a Checz location where he introduces them to the darkly mysterious method actor, Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe) who plays the vampire Nosferatu (because Murnau couldn’t obtain film rights from Bram Stoker’s estate to call it Dracula) and stays in character – and in costume & make up – at all times. Dissent in the ranks raises tensions as Schreck’s ghastly shadow looms over the production, his true identity increasingly evident: Murnau has somehow hired a real vampire, and his fee is the gorgeous blood of the lead actress, Greta (Catherine McCormack) – if he can control his bloodlust until the final scene.

"With this reassuringly bravado film, we are left in no doubt that imagination in filmmaking is not dead. Haunting and shimmering with visual power, Shadow of the Vampire is a fantasy horror comedy drama with the detail of a documentary. Script, direction, camera, design and cast work as a seamless whole to bring off a sometimes witty, often amazing and always gripping film that entertains even as it confronts. Are we quietly hoping for the unthinkable to take place before our eyes? How far will/can/should an Artist (and Murnau was definitely an Artist, at least in his own mind) go to explore the human condition in the quest for eternal truths? But there are not too many moments in which to ponder these questions; the film is a tight 88 minutes and its atmosphere engulfs the audience in its grotesquely fascinating embrace. There is revulsion and fear, compassion and pity, humour and drama, insanity and death, all vying for our clammy attention. Malkovich and Dafoe are riveting and so completely effective as to make us doubt their reality at key moments. Dafoe is a striking creation, an absolute match for the original image of Nosferatu, and his performance is shrivelling. Shot with innovative flair – but without tricks to distract us – Shadow of the Vampire is an extraordinary piece of cinema."
Andrew L. Urban

"Delectable for even the non-vampire palate, Shadow of the Vampire is a vividly haunting edgy drama that delivers more than you bargain for. E. Elias Merhige's gripping film has a sharp psychological edge and we are never let off the hook. The production design seduces us into a world of moody shadows, gliding easily in and out of colour and black & white. This technique of putting us into the film that Murnau is making is riveting: one minute we're watching the filmmakers, the next we have been transported into the silent film world of his imagination. But beyond the brilliant techniques come two of the most extraordinary performances you'll see all year. John Malkovich is overtly qualified for this role as the manically obsessed filmmaker whose determination to make the film he wants to make, steamrolls any moral inhibitions or compromises that another man might make. Every slight purse of his lips, the penetrating stare – oh yes, Malkovich is the man. You would swear that Willem Dafoe has become Max Schreck (German for shriek or fright), entombed in the most extraordinary make-up, a ghostly, terrifying creature who could easily star in any nightmare of mine. Dafoe exudes the essence of vampiric agony with every pained and hungered expression, while clicking his impossibly long, ancient fingernails. All the cast is hand-picked and Catherine McCormack is divine as the morphine addicted actress and the object of Shreck's deadly desire. The music, a large and often chilling orchestral score, is complemented by Wagner's complex discords. Savagely compelling and the epitome of the double cross, Shadow of the Vampire sucks you in. I dare you!"
Louise Keller

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

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FEATURE

TRAILER

SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (M)

(UK/USA/LUXBRG)

CAST: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Udo Kier, Catherine McCormack, Carey Elwes, Aden Gillet, Eddie Izzard,

DIRECTOR: E. Elias Merhige

PRODUCER: Nicolas Cage, Jeff Levine

SCRIPT: Steven Katz

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lou Bogue

EDITOR: Chris Wyatt

MUSIC: Dan Jones

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Assheton Gorton

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Niche Pictures

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 25, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: AV Channel

VIDEO RELEASE: July 18, 2001

Awards & Festivals:
Best Film, Avignon Film Festival, 2000
Official Selection Directors’ Fortnight, Cannes, 2000
Official Selection Toronto Film Festival, 2000
Official Selection Telluride Film Festival, 2000
Best Supporting Actor, Willem Dafoe, Los Angeles Film Critics Circle, 2000

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