REVIEW: Nosferatu with Live Score by Viola Dana @ Fringe

Words by: Jack Dawson

There are free art lessons to my left, and a stall named Braised Bros on my right. It’s a cool February night at Scarborough Beach, and I’m due to enter the Big Top at any moment.

Part of the charm of Fringe is that I get to go to places I’d usually miss or just ignore, and thanks to the busy highway that separates me from Scarborough Beach, I’ve not been there that often.

And I certainly never expected to see a classic silent film with a live soundtrack on the beach.

Nosferatu is one of those films which is rightfully lauded as a classic film while not being especially good. By the standards of modern horror, or even modern film, Nosferatu is a goofy mess with some janky effects. But by the standards of the Golden Age of Cinema when the easiest way to adapt Dracula was to steal the characters while changing the names and when even basic effects required hours of work, Nosferatu is on the cutting edge.

As well as being a formative work in Horror and German Expressionism, Nosferatu is a marvel of editing techniques and make-up effects, and introduces several interesting elements to the original Dracula story. The motif of Contagious Diseases and the Black Death is oddly apropos when applied to a Vampire, and Orlok resembling an inhuman rat is a lot more indicative of his predatory nature than an aristocratic count.

The effort made in reconstructing the films is also to be commended, it feels like the film should be watched if only to acknowledge the efforts of the researchers who repaired the film.

But the movie is one thing, the main event of this evening was Viola Dana. They’re a group that specializes in providing live accompaniment and music to silent films, playing everything from guitar to xylophones to best accompany the action on screen. And there is something delightfully punk about guitars and cellos accompanying a Vampire as he unleashes the Plague Rats who have been hiding in the coffins he brought over with him.
The music they play suits the mood perfectly, and the range that they manage with only four players is quite impressive.

This event was one night only, but you have another chance to listen to Viola Dana. They’ll be playing in Hyde Park on Valentine’s Day, accompanying Buster Keaton’s The General with live music. Check it out, rediscover a classic and broaden your horizons anew. What else is Fringe for after all?