“Salvation Through a Woman’s Love: Comparing F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) and Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
F.W. Murnau’s film is one of the great monuments of the silent film era with Max Schreck’s unforgettable performance as Orlok (Dracula) and the use of innovative exterior lighting and special effects. However, Bram Stoker’s widow successfully sued Murnau and the film’s producers on the grounds that Nosferatu represented an infringement of copyright. As a result, almost all the prints of the film were destroyed on orders of the court. We are fortunate that this masterpiece survives. You will note Murnau’s rather transparent attempts to disguise his borrowing from Stoker: the plot is simplified, the characters are renamed–Orlok (Dracula), Hutter (Harker), Ellen (Mina), Professor Bulwer (Van Helsing), Knock (Renfield)–and the London of the novel is recast as the small German town of Wisborg. In addition, the setting of the film is not the turn of the twentieth century as in the novel, with all of the inventions and technological advances associated with the capital of the British Empire, but rather 1838 Germany in the late Romantic period, which is closely associated with the genre of the Gothic in literature and art.
Francis Ford Coppola gave Stoker’s novel the full Hollywood, big budget treatment and his movie features many of the industry’s biggest stars during their heyday, such as Gary Oldman (Dracula), Anthony Hopkins (Van Helsing), Winona Ryder (Mina Harker), and Keanu Reeves (Jonathan Harker). The many connections to Nosferatu include Oldman’s make-up and the emphasis on the salvific potential of a woman’s love.
I would like you to compare the presentation in the two films of the characters of Ellen Hutter in Murnau’s film and Mina (neé Murray) Harker in Coppola’s film if terms of how they contribute to the destruction of Orlok-Dracula. Then I would like you to compare these characters with the original Mina Harker in Stoker’s novel and the role that she plays in hunting down and destroying Dracula. I’m interested in both similarities and differences between the individual films and the novel.
1000 words maximum. Keep in mind that good writing reflects concision of expression, clarity of organization, and the inclusion of abundant specific examples to support your argument. Avoid unnecessary plot summary or mere descriiption. Your focus must be on comparative analysis and your efforts to demonstrate your knowledge and skill. Use no sources aside from our edition of the novel (including the Appendices) and the two films. Please do not wait till the last minute to do this assignment. No extensions will be granted. No exceptions this time! A maximum of 30 points will be awarded as the top grade with 10 points each for your treatment of the two films and the novel.
Your essay is due on Friday, Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving. This should give you sufficient time to watch the films multiple times, take notes on them, review the novel, and draft your essay. Please proofread your essay carefully prior to submission. Please be sure to eliminate all punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors.
Murnau’s Nosferatu is available on the free service Tubi. Coppola’s Dracula is on Netflix or it can be rented on Amazon Prime Video