in about 100 words or less
Friedrich Wilhelm “F.W.” Murnau was born December 28, 1888, and died March 11, 1931. Owing to his premature death in an auto accident just weeks before the opening of his last film Tabu (1931), Murnau’s contributions are unfortunately limited to the silent era. Though his films are few in number, his contributions remain important to the history of film, particularly as part of the expressionist movement in German cinema.
Murnau is perhaps most widely remembered for his unlicensed adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922), which has received much attention from both film historians and fans of the horror genre as the seminal horror film of the silent era. Ordered by the courts to be destroyed after being sued by the Stoker Estate for copyright infringement, Nosferatu luckily survived, becoming one of the earliest cult films, and attracting the attention of Werner Herzog, who remade the film as Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979). More recently, it became the basis for Elias Merhige’s homage in Shadow of the Vampire (2000).
Notwithstanding the popularity of Nosferatu, Murnau’s most critically acclaimed film is undoubtedly Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), a Hollywood studio film which also received the first Academy Award in 1927/28 as a “Unique and Artistic Picture”, and which is continually recognized as one of the greatest films of all time by many film critics and directors. Of the 21 films Murnau directed, unfortunately only 12 survive in their entirety (Klaus Ming February 2015).
My attempt to watch and review in 100 words or less, the Murnau Filmography:
Der Knabe in Blau, aka The Boy in Blue (1919) – Lost film, minor fragments survive
Satanas (1920) – Lost film, minor fragments survive
Der Bucklige und die Tänzerin, aka The Hunchback and the Dancer (1920) – Lost film
Der Janus-Kopf, aka Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or The Head of Janus (1920) – Lost film
Abend – Nacht – Morgen, aka Evening – Night – Morning (1920) – Lost film
Sehnsucht (1921) Desire: The Tragedy of a Dancer – Lost film
Der Gang in die Nacht, aka Journey Into the Night (1921)
Schloß Vogelöd, aka he Haunted Castle / Castle Vogeloed (1921)
Marizza, genannt die Schmuggler-Madonna Marizza, aka The Smuggler Madonna (1922) – Only one reel survives
Der brennende Acker, aka The Burning Soil (1922)
Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, aka Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922)
Die Austreibung, aka The Expulsion (1923) – Lost film
Die Finanzen des Großherzogs, aka The Finances of the Grand Duke (1924)
Der letzte Mann, aka The Last Laugh (1924)
Herr Tartüff, aka Tartuffe (1925)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
4 Devils (1928) – Lost film
City Girl (1930)