Midnight Rambler (in_thy_bounty) wrote,
Midnight Rambler

Of Albin Grau

F.w. Murnau was the great director of the all-time classic 'Nosferatu' in 1921, everybody knows that. But what is surprising is how little direct influence he exerted on the entire project. The idea (as much as 'rip off Dracula' can be called an idea) came from Albin Grau, officially credited producer and production designer. Grau it was who drew up the first drawings of Orlock which are immediately recognisable.

Grau's Nosferatu

Grau was an artist and architect, but also a life-long student of the occult. He belonged to or was reputed to have belonged to numerous such societies. In 1925 he attended an international conference in Germany whose attendees included Aleister Crowley and Leah Hirsig. By 1925 Crowley had so torn the world of occult societies that his very presence caused chaos. The Pansophical Lodge, of which Grau attended as a member was split violently apart by those who accepted and wished to follow Crowley's Thelema and accompanying Book Of The Law, and those who rejected it. The following year the Pansophical Lodge would cease to exist entirely. Those following Crowley formed the Fraternitas Saturni instead. Grau's position seems rather non-committal; while he did join Fraternitas Saturni, he rejected the chance to Chair the organisation and resigned all of his Lodge titles, while continuing to contribute to the society's magazine. Titles were a big thing in such societies, indeed they could be said to be almost the entirety of it. You form your secret society, you create special levels of attainment, each level having its own encoded communication only understood by those deemed worthy to have ascended. If we assume that magic(k), demons and invocations are entirely nonsensical (and it seems safe to do so), then getting to the top of the boys club is about all that is left. Scientology also largely works on this principle, incidentally. All the rest is just romanticism and fantasy; the kind of thing I endorse and defend here regularly. Crowley's chief practical application to my eyes would be in his 'sex magick'. There is no more powerful sensation available to a human being than an orgasm, but it can be intensified still further through the engagement of the mind. Why do people 'talk dirty'? Because it intensifies everything, increases the anticipation, takes you beyond the boundaries of mere physical coupling. If in the moment, helped perhaps by drugs and alcohol, you want to imagine demons swirling around your head, that your sexual act has gone beyond the realms of mere humanity, that you are in some way transgressing the very fabric of decency, then so much the better. How much greater is that moment of intensity going to be when it is attained? And if in the build-up to this you want to run around in velvet cloaks drawing magic symbols, then why the hell not? That it's secret, that it's in some way forbidden is only going to increase the allure. And it was very much forbidden; Fraternitas Saturni was outlaw by the Nazi regime in 1936 and Grau had to flee to Switzerland under threat of prosecution. But this is all later... back to 1921.

Grau designed the entire look and feel of 'Nosferatu'. He also bankrolled it. He founded the company Prana Film specifically to produce and distribute occult films. 'Nosferatu' was the first of these, and also the last. Following the film's release it was subject to legal action by the estate of Bram Stoker. To escape this action, Grau had to declare the company bankrupt. All prints of 'Nosferatu' were then ordered destroyed, but a few survived and in time were circulated to help the film attain its cult status. Even the best modern restorations are from poor quality stock, often copies of copies, and so even the very best restoration now available will never compete on clarity with other films of the silent era nw being restored. But then 'Nosferatu' was never about clarity.

Henrik Galeen was hired to write the screenplay, already storyboarded in great detail by Grau. Galeen had previously written and co-directed 'The Golem', another classic of German cinema which itself contained occult themes. What was left to Murnau was to deliver the already realised project, chiefly through directing cameraman Fritz Arno Wagner, and precisely controlling his actors, all the way down to the use of a metronome to keep them to time.

F.W. Murnau's 'Nosferatu' could thus be more correctly amended to Albin Grau's 'Nosferatu'. 'Meta-fictional' accounts of all the production staff and actors of 'Nosferatu' can be found in 2000's 'Shadow Of The Vampire', where Grau is played by Udo Kier.
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