Sound Vs. Silence Essay, Research Paper
Sound vs. Silence
Essay submitted by Anonymous
The most apparent difference between Dracula and Nosferatu is that one was made
while film was still without sound-at least dialogue-and the other was not. This
difference, though not a revelation in itself, leads to a great number of much more
in-depth contrasts that deserve discussion.
In making a silent film, a director must rely on sight-and a certain amount of text-to
portray to the audience his intended emotional, and intellectual reaction. As a result of
this, the director is not able to go into in-depth character development with the same
kind of resources as a director of film that is not silent. In the case of Nosferatu, this
leads to a very limited number of characters have any kind of depth whatsoever. This is
not to say that every character does not have about him or herself a certain image, or
that every character does not extract a certain emotion from the audience. It is simply
to say that a great number of characters in Nosferatu use only image to achieve their
desired effect. For example, in Dracula, if one were to see Dracula walking down the
street, an adverse reaction would be somewhat illfounded. Outside of his clothes,
Dracula is a normal looking person. In Nosferatu, however, Dracula is more or less a
freak. The end result of this is the audience having the same image of Dracula in both
movies, one achieved this through extensive dialogue, and one simply through the
appearance of a character. Another example, in Dracula, the first character that is
given any kind of development whatsoever is Renfield, and throughout the movie,
Renfield is transformed first to a blood sucking savage, and then slowly returned to a
character with a heart, and a little bit of compassion. However, in Nosferatu, Renfield is
already the blood sucking savage, cooped up in the loony bin, eating bugs when the
movie starts, and the extent of his role seems to be nothing more than to provide more
insight into the nature of Dracula.
Perhaps the most interesting contrast between the two movies is that although they
are based on the same novel, their story lines do not coincide. This is apparent in the
beginning when in Dracula, Renfield is the one who travels to Transylvania, whereas in
Nosferatu, John Harker is the one who travels to Transylvania. It is not explicitly clear
in Dracula who the owner of the property that Dracula purchases is; however, in
Nosferatu, it is clear that John Harker is the owner, and his trip to Transylvainia is for
the purpose of selling the property to Dracula. Furthermore, in Nosferatu, the discovery
of the true nature of Dracula, and the one thing that will bring about his demise is made
with the ease of finding a book brought back from Transylvainia by John Harker.
However, in Dracula, the identity of Dracula is not revealed until the professor (a
character with very little, if any impact in Nosferatu) makes a number of discoveries
about his physical properties and habits. This is followed by a lengthy discussion where
the professor reveals his findings, as well as what is necessary to bring down Dracula
(which is also different in each film). These differences very well may be due to each
directors interpretation of Bram Stoker’s novel; however, it is quite possible that a
number of them were a result of the fact that the director of Nosferatu was forced to
work without sound. This would explain the removal of the professor’s explanation of
the phenomenon of vampires in favor for an explanation given by a book, which is easily
converted to a text caption.
In addition to character development, and story line, there is also another difference
between Nosferatu and Dracula that is the result of one film being in the silent medium.
In Dracula, in order for the director to create a sense of fear or panic, all that was
necessary was a scream or few words said with a voice filled with much distress.
However, in Nosferatu, the director was forced to rely on the background music, or the
physical orientations of the characters. In a sense, this would lead to more work for
the director of Nosferatu. For example, in Dracula, there are many occasions where the
camera turns away from a certain character to focus on an action somewhere else, and
then a scream is heard from that character that was just recently in focus. With this,
two things are achieved; first, implying that he works in shadow, mysteriously hidden
from all except his victim reinforces the eerie image that Dracula has come to hold
throughout the ages, and second, the role of the character that screamed is pushed
forth without even having him or her in the picture. The director of Nosferatu, on the
other hand, is forced to use the camera to its fullest extent to create the same effect.
For example, when Dracula takes Lucy as a victim, the director uses the shadow of
Dracula poised over Lucy, growing ever larger, and revealing an ever more frightening
shape. In addition, the shadow is portrayed on Lucy, who now shows the face of
someone appearing to have seen death itself.
In contrasting Nosferatu and Dracula, someone need do no more than observe the films
from the director’s point of view. This achieved, it would be plain to see that all of the
differences, outside of interpretation of the novel and things attributed to individual
style, can be accredited to the fact that one director was forced to work without
sound, and one was not.