In the title, Shadow of a Vampire, you already see foreshadow for what the movie will be about; vampires and shadows come to mind and the movie do focus on those aspects, but what comes to mind for me, is a new kind of monster, a monster described as just a “shadow of a Vampire”. In this movie, you are not only introduced to a Vampire, whom later on you have feelings similar to pity for him, you are also introduced to this man, just a human man, who wants to make a film all about Nosferatu. But with this man, you do not sympathize or have any feelings for him. In the original works of Dracula and Nosferatu, it was always the vampire who was the villain, but in this movie, it was actually the director that had more monster-like qualities. We even see a whole scene of him in a cabaret club in the very beginning to wisp away any open-mindness we have for all characters. It also sets the mood, which is that for an environment which can shadow any “vampire” and also for the time period of the movie.
The theme of drugs is displayed also, with the cat in the beginning, and the lady in the end, both alike in the way that drugs were used to make both docile by the same person, the director, Murnau. The man is seen as the real monster, although not in the very beginning, but you can start to see some foreshadowing hints already, because he does not see people as people, and only as tools to get what he wants and that is just as bad as a vampire who sees people as food, and ways of getting blood to survive off of, except Murnau does not need, technically, “film” to survive, but it is what he wants. He needs people for their skill, and for no other attachment. When a person walks in on his shot for an emergency, he yells how a “native” just walked in. Like he is a vampire calling her a human.
When Nosferatu attacks his screen writer, the director does not care that the man is dying; only that he has to find another one. He even bargains the life of the girl, Greta, to Nosferatu in order for him to be in the film since the very beginning which is what lured Nosferatu in the first place. But the final ending is where we determine for once and for all that he is truly monstrous when even through the witness of three deaths and the death of the vampire himself, he films the whole time, and when all is said and done, he just calmly states “I think we have it”. Granted, he did try to kill the vampire before any other casualties, but Greta would have died anyway, staring into the eyes of her killer who was sucking the life out of her, the camera and Murnau behind it rolling.
The camera even takes on qualities like a vampire or as an instrument Murnau uses that replaces the fact he does not actually suck the life with his own teeth. It is insinuated all throughout the film as something destructive. The lady, Greta, once even said that acting before an audience gave her life, but acting in front of a camera, it was like it sucked all the life from her. A description like a vampire as it, too, sucks the life out of you. Others even call it a “weapon” and what is it “loaded” with, and so on. Even in basic terminology, the very words “shot” and “shooting” is the same for shooting a film and actually shooting a gun. We also see these shots through the eye of the camera, of the lens. And it is what the director, Murnau, says often that “if it is not in frame, it doesn’t exist”. This obsession that drives his near insanity and villainous intentions that make Murnau the actual villain all originates from the camera.
The camera, though, does have a silver lining when it allowed Nosferatu to witness the sun without dying. When he was asked what was the one thing he wanted but could not have, he answered, “the delight of the sun”. With the camera, he was able to see the sun and be in the camera’s light. And in the very end, what kills him is the sun. The real villain and “vampire” today are far more dangerous and crazy than any other vampires back in the day, and Murnau is just an example of a classic, modern vampire whom sucks the life out of his victims with his camera, not his teeth, and will go to any means, moral or not, to get what he wants. Nosferatu, in this film, was an old vampire, to survive to this day, and remembers nothing other than the fact he can not even make other vampires. The audience can only sympathize with the lonely, useless creature that has a reason to feed off of blood, while Murnau does not have any logical reason to.