Nosferatu The Jazz Bar

When I recently mentioned to a friend of mine that I was planning on seeing and reviewing the original silent horror classic “Nosferatu” with a live musical accompaniment this Edinburgh Fringe, she instantly replied: “Oh, is that “Sing-A-Long-A- Dracula?” I paused a bit, and then smiled, and said, “Eh, not quite”.

But seriously, what was presented to a packed crowd (standing room only!) assembled in the basement Jazz Bar in Chambers Street, was something quite eerie, and quite out of the ordinary. For amidst the darkened nooks and corners of this shadowy basement bar, an establishment more used to the jazzy sounds of up-tempo mood music, we were about to witness and hear dissonant and unsettling tones that would match and compliment the phantom like sequences about to be viewed.

On a large video screen, the flickeringly nightmarish monochrome images from the seminal 1922 German horror classic “Nosferatu”, directed by the visionary filmmaker FW Murnau, was being screened. Whilst simultaneously, the audience was listening to the combined talents of two musicians who were providing the background soundtrack to this timeless tale of tingling terror!!

The musicians in question were Graeme Stephen & Ben Davis who used the sounds of the guitar and the cello in providing the nerve-jangling thematic assistance to the story, with a great deal of effectiveness. I have watched a number of old silent movies over the years (Ben-Hur, The Phantom Of the Opera, to name but just two) that have had new symphonic music scores commissioned. This was usually in order to give added emotional depth to the stories unfolding on screen. However, I think that this may well be the very first time that it has been done with only two musicians. And such a refreshing enterprise it has turned out to be.

Many serious film writers and historians look upon the film of “Nosferatu” as not only the very first screen adaptation of Bram Stoker’s original horror novel “Dracula” yet quite possibly the best screen adaptation ever attempted. Dripping with a uniquely gothic atmosphere that made early German cinema so influential amongst future filmmakers, the characterisation of Dracula (although his name was changed for the film to Baron Orlok to avoid legal problems with the Stoker estate) and as played by Max Shcreck, is without doubt, one of the most loathsome and repellent ever envisaged for the screen.

So, this Fringe audience were doubly treated, in not only enjoying a rare opportunity in seeing on a large screen one of the most famous silent movies of world cinema, but at the same time, listening with intense attention to Graeme Stephen & Ben Davis’s joint creation that added just that little bit more blood, life and musical bite to the story!

Lawrence Lettice