Shadow of the Vampire
Promotional poster
Directed by E. Elias Merhige
Produced by Nicolas Cage
Jeff Levine
Written by Steven Katz
Starring John Malkovich
Willem Dafoe
Udo Kier
Cary Elwes
Catherine McCormack
Eddie Izzard
Music by Dan Jones
Cinematography Lou Bogue
Editing by Royinba Onijala
Studio BBC Films
Madman Films
Saturn Films
Delux Productions
Longshot Productions
Distributed by Lions Gate Films
Release date(s) December 29, 2000 (2000-12-29)
Running time 92 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $8 million[1]
Box office $11,155,214

Shadow of the Vampire is a 2000 horror film directed by E. Elias Merhige and written by Steven Katz, and starring John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, and Udo Kier. The film is a fictionalized account of the making of the classic vampire film Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, directed by F. W. Murnau, in which the film crew begin to have disturbing suspicions about their lead actor. The film borrows the techniques of silent films, including the use of intertitles to explain elided action and iris lenses.[2] The film received two Academy Award nominations, Best Supporting Actor and Best Makeup, but lost to Traffic and How The Grinch Stole Christmas, respectively.


In 1921, German director Frederich Wilhelm Murnau (John Malkovich) takes his Berlin-based cast and crew on-location in Slovakia and Poland in order to shoot Nosferatu, an unauthorized version of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula. He informs them that the person playing the part of the vampire Count Orlok, an obscure German theater performer named Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe), is a highly professional character actor, but in order to involve himself fully in his character, he will only appear among the cast and crew in full make-up and character (the real life Schreck was a German stage and film actor who appeared in several films, including Die Finanzen des Grossherzogs).

The main setting is an old Slovak castle. Schreck is there waiting for the filming team, and his appearance and behavior are truly disquieting. The cameraman soon starts feeling terrorized and sick, and has to be taken away and replaced. The other main actor, Gustav von Wangenheim (Eddie Izzard), is frightened of Schreck, but then convinces himself that Schreck is simply a very good actor.

On one occasion, two members of the crew are sharing a drink under the stars, and Schreck approaches. They invite him to join them, and Schreck drinks with them. Jokingly they ask about his vampirism and Schreck tells them of his history as a vampire, centuries old. When questioned, he tells the crew that he is so old, he cannot remember how he became a vampire, and cannot create more of his own kind. A bat flies by and Schreck catches it with a quick hand and bites it, ecstatically sucking blood from its body. The others are left impressed by what they still assume is talented acting.

As it turns out, Schreck is a true vampire, and Murnau has made a deal with him in order to make his film absolutely realistic. Schreck has been promised the main actress, Greta Schroeder (Catherine McCormack), as a prize, provided he fulfills his role until the end of the filming. But the vampire is frequently uncooperative until eventually the entire production, stranded on an island in the North Sea, is at his mercy.

In the end, Schreck kills Greta while acting out a scene. Murnau is left as the sole survivor, operating the camera, as several other crew members are killed and Schreck falls victim to the scripted death of Orlok: Enough time has passed for the sun to rise and its rays are now let onto the set.


Production and financingEdit

The film's working title was Burned to Light, but the director E. Elias Merhige decided to change the name of the film when Willem Dafoe asked, "Who's Ed?"; the actor thought the title was Burn Ed to Light.[3]

The film was produced by Nicolas Cage's Saturn Films. Members of the online community "The HollyWood Stock Exchange" were able to donate a small sum towards the film's production, in exchange for listing their name on the DVD release of the film as "Virtual producers".

Of the film's cast, two actors had previously appeared in vampire movies: Udo Kier played Count Dracula in Blood for Dracula (1974) as well appearing in Blade (1998) as Dragonetti and Cary Elwes played Arthur Holmwood in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).


Critical reaction to Shadow of the Vampire has been mostly positive, with the film earning a rating of 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.[4] Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ stars out of 4, writing that "director E. Elias Merhige and his writer, Steven Katz, do two things at the same time. They make a vampire movie of their own, and they tell a backstage story about the measures that a director will take to realize his vision", and that Dafoe "embodies the Schreck of Nosferatu so uncannily that when real scenes from the silent classic are slipped into the frame, we don't notice a difference."[5] Ebert later awarded the film his Special Jury Prize on his list of "The Best 10 Movies of 2000", writing of Dafoe's "astonishing performance" and of the film, "Avoiding the pitfall of irony; it plays the material straight, which is truly scary."[6]


Shadow of the Vampire won several awards:

Willem Dafoe was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.


External linksEdit

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