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F.W. Murnau: I will not allow you to destroy my picture!
Shadow of the Vampire is a 2000 film directed by E. Elias Merhige, starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe.
Malkovich plays F.W. Murnau, the German director who sets out to make his most identifiable film, Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie des Grauens. To make his somewhat lawyer-friendly take on Dracula, he hires the mysterious Max Shreck to play the vampire Count Orlock. Murnau knows that Schreck is a real-life vampire, and he's hired the actor to ensure a real-life performance. But, he's really bitten off more than he can chew this time...
This work features examples of:
- Age Without Youth
- Bald of Evil
- Black Comedy
- Bullying a Dragon: Murnau constantly yells at Schreck for killing his crew.
- Continuity Nod: The famous scene of Orlock's projected hand's shadow is reproduced several times.
- Control Freak: Murnau, full on. However, things eventually get way out of his control.
- Deal with the Devil
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Everyone involved with filmmaking will recognize the film as one big metaphor for film production itself. Roger Ebert noticed this in his review:
Roger Ebert: Schreck muses aloud, "I do not think we need . . . the writer . . ." Scenes like this work as inside comedy, but they also have a practical side: The star is hungry, and because he is the star, he can make demands. This would not be the first time a star has eaten a writer alive.
- Doing It for the Art: Murnau's excuse, though he uses the words For Science!.
- Enforced Method Acting: The end result of having to work with an actual bloodsucker. Murnau even lampshades it:
"They don't need to act. They need to be"
- "Consider this a sacrifice for your art"
- Fatal Method Acting: Schreck is a real vampire, thus disintegrates when his character is killed via sunlight.
- Happens to several members of the cast and production crew.
- For Halloween I Am Going as Myself: "For this horror movie, I shall be playing a vampire."
- Gratuitous German: Herr Doktor, Herr Doktor, Herr Doktor, Ja...
- Also, Eddie Izzard as Gustav. He basically uses the same German accent he uses for his stand up routine about the Heimmlich Manoeuvre.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Eddie Izzard plays Nosferatu cast member Gustav von Wangenheim.
- Udo Kier as producer and production designer Albin Grau.
- Large Ham: Murnau. "Death of centuries! Moonchaser! Blasphemer! Monkey! Vase of prehistory. Finally to Earth, and finally born."
- Looks Like Orlok: Willem Dafoe, for very obvious reasons.
- Making the Masterpiece: A rather fictional example of this type of story.
- Meaningful Name: A rare Real Life example: Schreck is German for "fright". The real Max Schreck delighted in this coincidence.
- Monster Sob Story: Schreck.
- Narm: Some of Schreck's expressions and gestures go over the top, mildly speaking.
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: Greta.
- Our Vampires Are Different: They don't reflect in mirrors, but since they cast shadows, they can be caught on film.
- Schreck comments that he cannot make other vampires (whether he is physically limited himself or just doesn't know how to is unclear), drinks alcohol in more than one occasion (and gets drunk by it), can feed on animals, and while he refuses to board a ship he manages to reach an island by plane (thus passing over moving water).
- The Prima Donna: Greta is introduced as one at first, but quickly gets surpassed by Murnau himself.
- Schrodingers Cat: If we are to count "real life" as the source material, then the deaths of several cast and crew members, including Schreck counts.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Let's just say this film plays very loosely with the facts.
- Villainous Breakdown: Murnau, after Schreck kills cinematographer Fritz Arno Wagner, and producer Albin Grau. He expresses his cracked sanity as he orders Schreck to be killed via sunlight.
- Warm Bloodbags Are Everywhere: Murnau has to keep his cast and crew from falling prey to Schreck's fangs.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Schreck reads the book Dracula in order to study for his role, and is saddened by the scene where Dracula leaves a meal for Jonathon Harker, and remembers when he used to have servants to do such tasks for him, which reminds him of when he had a wife, family, estates etc, whereas now he's just a scavenger living in a ruined castle.
- Writers Suck: After Schreck kills the cinematographer, he quips "I don't think we need the writer..."