Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror

Max Schreck

Max Schreck relaxing between takes & creeping everyone out on the set of Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror (1922, dir. F.W. Murnau) (via)

During the filming of Nosferatu, Schreck reportedly stayed in character at all times, even when the cameras weren’t rolling, and the cast and crew never saw him out of full makeup and costume. While this immersive approach to acting is commonplace now, it was unusual back then and his appearance & behavior led to wild rumors that Schreck actually was a vampire. If this photo is indicative of Schreck’s demeanor around the set of Nosferatu, the crew’s wariness was entirely understandable.

Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz (1939, dir. Victor Fleming)–and Lynch



Q. The spectre of The Wizard of Oz has haunted aspects of your previous films [e.g. Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart]. How do you explain the appearance of The Wizard of Oz in a number of contemporary films, from Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore to Zardoz?

David Lynch: The Wizard of Oz is a film with very great power, and I suppose that Martin Scorsese and John Boorman saw it, like me, during their childhoods and that it made a very strong impression on them. And it’s to be expected that it has stayed with us for the past several years and that we find its echoes in our films for such a long time after. The Wizard of Oz is like a dream and it has immense emotional power.

Q. What exactly is it that you love about The Wizard of Oz?

Lynch: There’s a certain amount of fear in that picture, as well as things to dream about. So it seems truthful in some way.

Q. For many it must have been something to do with the comforting conclusion that “There’s No Place like Home”. Home is seen as the ultimate refuge from all worry and fear -exactly the reverse of the homes in your movies!

Lynch: [Laughs] Right. But the family in The Wizard of Oz weren’t Dorothy’s real parents. So it’s all very strange. It makes you crazy! [Laughs]

-excerpted from David Lynch: Interviews

The physiologically conditioned needs are not…

… the only imperative part of man’s nature. There is another part just as compelling, one which is not rooted in bodily processes but in the very essence of the human mode and practice of life: the need to be related to the world outside oneself, the need to avoid aloneness. To feel completely alone and isolated leads to mental disintegration just as physical starvation leads to death. This relatedness to others is not identical with physical contact. An individual may be alone in a physical sense for many years and yet he may be related to ideas, values, or at least social patterns that give him a feeling of communion and “belonging”. On the other hand, he may live among people and yet be overcome with an utter feeling of isolation, the outcome of which, if it transcends a certain limit, is the state of insanity which schizophrenic disturbances represent. This lack of relatedness to values, symbols, patterns, we may call moral aloneness is as intolerable as the physical aloneness, or rather that physical aloneness becomes unbearable only if it implies moral aloneness. The spiritual relatedness can assume many forms; the monk in his cell who believes in God and the political prisoner kept in isolation who feels one with his fellow fighters are not alone morally. Neither is the English gentleman who wears his dinner jacket in the most exotic surroundings nor the petty bourgeois who, though being deeply isolated from his fellow men, feels one with his nation or its symbols. The kind of relatedness to the world may be noble or trivial, but even being related to the basest kind of pattern is immensely preferable to being alone. Religion and nationalism, as well as any custom and any belief however absurd and degrading, if it only connects the individual with others, are refuges from what man most dreads: isolation.

— Erich Fromm (Escape From Freedom)

Ilse Bing, « Selbstporträt mit Leica » , 1931, Privatsammlung Paris © Estate of Ilse Bing


Ilse Bing, who decided to take up the profession of photographer in 1929, portrayed herself in 1931 in the traditional style of an occupational portrait. As a former student of art history, Ilse Bing was undoubtedly familiar both with the famous “mirror paintings” of van Eyck, Parmiganino and Velazquéz and with the genre of the “self-portrait of the artist in his studio”. In this self-portrait, the tripod and camera have replaced the painter’s palette and easel. The photographer has mounted her Leica on a table tripod and is looking across the top of the camera into the mirror so as not to lose sight of herself behind the viewfinder, obviously not wishing to view this self-portrait with camera through the camera itself. Unlike Germaine Krull – and, later, Andreas Feininger – Bing rejected the absolute identification of the eye and/or entire person of the photographer with the camera lens. Her somewhat aloof attitude towards the Constructivist ideal of the artist-engineer was altogether in keeping with her work as a photojournalist which was on the whole more akin to Kertész than to Moholy-Nagy and conveyed rather a romantically poetical than a Constructivist view of the world.

By integrating into her full-face mirror image a second image in profile, Ilse Bing creates a complex interplay of lines and angles of vision. Not only does she herself appear both as the subject and as the object of the work – as the viewer and the viewed – in two different perspectives, but she also guides the viewer’s gaze in a peculiarly circular manner, making the viewer the mirror, as it were, of her own self. Ever since Cubism, polyperspectivity has been part and parcel of the repertoire of modernism. In merging the full-face and profile images of herself, Ilse Bing indeed demonstrates the height of photographic modernism. The production of multiple portraits with the aid of mirrors had been the favourite pastime of amateur photographers since the turn of the century, the technique having been exhaustively described in many manuals on leisure and recreational photography. As an example of the use of this mirror technique in art, Marcel Duchamp’s quintuple self-portrait of 1917 has achieved a certain degree of fame. Bing’s “Self-portrait with Leica”, however, is more than just a “jeu de miroirs”, for the second, profile image also reveals another side to this woman photographer’s personality. The paradigmatic change in the modern photographic aesthetic of the 1920s, a change characterized by the rejection of the traditional principles of painting (Pictorialism) in favour of the scientific ideal of extended perception (Constructivism), was no isolated photo-historical phenomenon. It was bound up with a general utopian ideology which saw its revolutionary strength for the creation of a new human society not in any political struggle but rather in technology. It was not until this ideology finally exercised its influence that the photographic lens gained primacy over the human eye. “The hoped-for change in the world will […] come: not through politics – but through technology; not through a revolutionary, but through an inventor,” announced Count Coudenhove-Kalergi, a cultural philosopher and visionary, in his book “Practical Idealism. Aristocracy-Technology-Pacifism” in 1925. The same view was expressed by Moholy-Nagy in “Painting Photography Film” in the same year: “The engineer has the machine in his hands,” he writes, “satisfying immediate needs. But basically much more: he is the initiator of the new stratum of society, the paver of the way for the future”. It was against this background that for many a theorist the photographer was the very embodiment of the Constructivist ideal of the artist-engineer.