Is Nosferatu the oldest known vampire film
Vampire expert : Pretty dogged
Mr. Nuzum, you wrote a book about vampires and what they mean. How does a pop culture expert come up with an idea like this?
I sat at breakfast in the morning, ate “Count Chocula” flakes, and President Bush talked on television about “energy vampires” - adapters for computers or cell phones that, when plugged in, consume electricity even when no device is connected. In front of me was an open magazine with a vodka advertisement: a woman in a blood-red satin dress and a slogan about night and drinking. That was three vampires in three minutes! I was shocked and started thinking about why vampires are so popular.
The vampire is the perfect metaphor. Other horror characters like Frankenstein or Godzilla appear and disappear again. The vampire stays. He is an icon, an image of all the things that we fear but that we also long for - he is sexy, seductive. A mysterious villain who lives forever, never ages, never gets sick. And he is evil, makes a cruel trade to preserve his power: he feeds on the living. The vampire is an archetype for our fear and longing for eternal life.
The model for almost all vampire depictions is Vlad Dracula, who ruled Transylvania in the 15th century. Was he a real bloodsucker?
No. The historical prince Vlad was cruel and had a penchant for staking. Hence its bad reputation.
During your research you identified a distant relative of his.
Yes, George W. Bush is a 16th cousin of Vlad Dracula. But that also applies to John Kerry, the former Democratic presidential candidate.
You even drank blood for your book.
I thought it was a good idea. I read a lot in my research, and blood was repeatedly cited as a source of power for vampires. Blood seemed to be the key. I couldn't help but wonder: what if there was something to all this blood-drinking nonsense? Maybe it really gives you a kick, like a strong cup of coffee or something?
And is that why you drained your veins?
There was no one else whose blood I wanted to drink. I thought: if someone allows you to drink their blood, it is definitely someone whose blood you better keep your hands off of. So there was only my own left.
Did you feel anything special afterwards?
If vomiting is considered “special”, then yes. It tasted terrible - like licking off a railroad track. After iron. And then, well, like my breakfast.
Also cruel: you have allegedly seen all 605 existing vampire films.
I planned to do this, but never finished. In the two years that I worked on the book, I made 216 vampire films. It really was a terrible job. After the first dozen you realize how unoriginal and unimaginative most of these films are. Based on the description on the cover, I was able to predict the action with almost no errors. And many are badly played.
What's the worst vampire movie you've ever seen?
My personal favorite film: "Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter". It's a musical, Jesus knows Kung Fu, and El Santo, that famous Mexican wrestler, comes to the rescue of the Savior.
The Dracula film with Christopher Lee turns 50 these days. It's a classic, Christopher Lee's portrayal of the vampire still scares people today. What do you think of the film?
Oh, that's very interesting. You have to know that after Bela Lugosi's films from the 30s, no one dared to make a Dracula film for over 20 years. Nobody wanted to play Count Dracula - Lugosi had been too good at the time. Until Christopher Lee came. His Dracula is a really evil figure who enjoys doing cruel things to wreak havoc.
Why was his portrayal so outstanding?
Lee's Dracula has no motive, and that is what makes him so scary. The film is reminiscent of the Cold War. It was a time of fear. People feared superpowers that were deeply evil and whose motivation was not understood. In response to such threats, we create monsters that act as catalysts.
Is there a movie that you can seriously recommend?
Oh yeah! "Shadow of a Vampire" from 2000. It is a film about the shooting of "Nosferatu", the famous vampire film from the 20s. In “Shadow of a Vampire” John Malkovich plays the Nosferatu director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and Willem Dafoe plays the Nosferatu actor Max Schreck. So many strange things happened on set during the actual filming of “Nosferatu” that it was believed that Max Schreck was a real vampire. “Shadow of a Vampire” takes up this question.
Actually, the "Nosferatu" from 1922 should no longer exist ...
Like many vampire stories, it is based on the book "Dracula" by Bram Stoker, which he published in 1897. After Stoker's death, his widow Florence administered the rights to his novel.
Murnau shot “Nosferatu” without her consent. His vampire was therefore not called Dracula, but "Count Orlok".
Exactly. Florence Stoker was obsessed with stopping the film. The proceeds from "Dracula" were her only income. She didn't care what was made of Stoker's characters. It was all about the money, that's why she sued the makers of "Nosferatu". When she finally won, she didn't want any more money, she just wanted to see the film destroyed. That's why every copy we look at today is actually a pirated copy.
In Stoker's book, Dracula is a relatively ugly old guy with sparse-headed - but lush everywhere - hair, a big nose, bad breath, and long fingernails. Who was the model for the count?
There were two men in Bram Stoker's life whom he adored. One was the writer Walt Whitman, the other the actor Henry Irving. Dracula has characteristics of both. But Stoker fell in love with Whitman: he adored his theses on the role of men in society. This image of a man can also be found in "Dracula". Each figure is a sacrifice to the Count until the men band together. Only this brotherhood ultimately succeeds in killing the count.
What is the strongest embodiment of Stoker's Dracula? Sex, death or illness?
He stands for everything, can stand for everything. To this day there are hundreds of interpretations of what the story is actually about: illness, fear of mechanization, xenophobia, fear of the East. Then sex in the Victorian era, the role of women in the relationship, women's rights. But also homosexuality, a warning against promiscuity. This one book means so many different things to so many people. That makes it a classic.
In your book you mention that the German term “Gesundheit!” Does not refer so much to sneezing as it is to vampires.
The fear of a vampire bite is pretty modern. Originally it was assumed that vampires mentally deprive you of your life force. Sneezing was considered an indication that you were attacked by a vampire. Then someone else had to wish "Health!" - it was actually a kind of protective magic, like a vampire defense field.
And the garlic ...
... can be traced back to the intensified sense of smell that people with rabies develop. Belief went so far as to stuff the dead with garlic to prevent them from being resurrected as vampires.
From 1985 to 1990 there was a real boom in vampire films based on a real fear: AIDS.
Vampire films thrive on the taboo to drink the blood of others. AIDS seemed like a real embodiment of this taboo. The most famous films that were made during this vampire hype are "Bram Stoker’s Dracula" and "Interview with a Vampire".
And do you see a metaphor for homosexuality in "Dracula"?
A lot of people have concluded that Stoker was gay. This is due to the great intimacy that prevails between his male characters. When Dracula's vampire women mess with Jonathan Harker, Dracula appears and orders: “Get back, I tell you! This man is mine! ”And of course you can find parallels in his life, which, thanks to the close friendships he cultivated, was a role model for the homosexuals of his time. There is no question that Stoker loved men. What we don't know is whether it was a purely spiritual love or also a physical one.
Anyway, he was afraid of vaginas.
Absolutely! This becomes very clear in his last book, The Lair of the White Worm. The main character, Lady Arabella, a female, vampire-like worm, has this “hole” that, according to Stoker, “smells like a slaughterhouse”.
Why are there so few female celebrities among the vampires?
The vampire myth also has a feminine side: Lilith in the Jewish Talmud, Lamia in Greek mythology and the Indian goddess Kali all show vampiric traits. And one of the most famous stories about a female vampire, "Carmilla", published by Irish author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu in 1872, is based on a true character.
So “Carmilla” is older than Bram Stoker's “Dracula”?
Yes. “Carmilla” is borrowed from the Hungarian Countess Erzsébet Báthory, also known as the “Blood Countess”. She lived in the 16th century and sadistically murdered several young women. It is said that she bathed in their virgin blood and drank it to stay young forever.
Does the vampire myth come from the western world?
There is and has been in almost every society. There are Japanese vampires, Chinese vampires, Iranian vampires. They are described differently and have different names, but they are all undead creatures that feed on the living to sustain themselves and gain supernatural powers.
And where does the word “vampire” come from?
This is as mysterious as the creature it describes. Nobody can say exactly where it came from. It almost seems like it appeared out of nowhere.
Meanwhile, the first "good" vampires appear. First came "Angel", an offshoot of the TV series "Buffy". The "Moonlight" series is running here in Germany, and the "Twilight" books by author Stephenie Meyer are currently bestsellers. In all three, the vampire is not the biting monster, but the shining hero. How come
We live in a time when it is no longer possible to say exactly who is good and who is bad. A person can combine both qualities. The "True Blood" series is currently running here in the USA, which is based on the "Sookie Stackhouse" books by Charlaine Harris. The vampires at Harris have come to appreciate morality again, want the same rights as humans, but they are still fierce inside. They remain dangerous and unpredictable. This is the vampire of our time.
Does that have something to do with the changed role model of women? As a screeching victim, women are no longer up to date.
I do not believe that. In Meyer and Harris' books, it is always adolescents who come into contact with the vampires. The television heroine "Buffy" is also a young woman who, at the same time as her sexuality, discovers the vampires - the evil in the world. I think every young woman who falls in love for the first time knows phrases like “You can't trust him”. It is a time when you still have to learn who is right for you.
You met really threatening people during the research.
Yes, there are people who say they are real vampires. It's scary at first, but the ones I met seemed pretty normal in conversation.
Why does someone want to be a vampire?
Maybe because he used to feel like a victim, a target of "vampires" in the figurative sense, who made life difficult for them. They feel weak. And they defend themselves against this with their clothing, with their behavior. Some actually drink blood.
Wasn't your wife worried when you went to vampire meetings?
Nice. We had agreed on a code by mobile phone with which I could discreetly tell her "I'm fine". But these people are ultimately no creepier than the others you meet in bars.
But once you were scared ...
On my first date with a vampire. We had a date in a park near my home, a vampire named "Steve" whom I had found on the Internet, and me. When I got there it was already dark - I wasn't prepared for that. I sat there all alone on a bench in the dark and waited. Suddenly there was a rustling in the bushes - maybe a human, maybe just a squirrel. I couldn't see it clearly. I preferred to run. I never heard from Steve again.
Now please explain what Count Zahl from Sesame Street is all about, who is always counting bats.
It is also based on a real vampire legend. Allegedly, vampires have an obsessive-compulsive disorder: arithmomania. You have to keep counting things. Bram Stoker originally wanted to use this for "Dracula" too, but then rejected it again. The custom of throwing rice stems from this: a vampire sees the grains of rice, starts counting them and forgets to attack.
Then we hope that Graf Zahl never runs out of bats.
That would be better for Kermit.
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