Q: Where in Slovakia was Nosferatu filmed?
Part of the story of the 1922 German classic horror film, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror), takes place in Transylvania. Instead of traveling over 1,000 miles from Berlin to reach it, its director, Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe, working under the name F. W. Murnau, took the much shorter trip just to neighboring Slovakia to shoot all the filmic Transylvanian locations there in the late summer–early fall of 1921. Contrary to some sources, they were distributed in places up to 90 miles from each other. The Slovakia-shot footage makes up about 15% of the film.
As Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) enters the country, Nosferatu features its first Slovak location, a panorama of the High Tatras.
Looking north from the vicinity of Tatranská Polianka, the camera pans from Slovakia's highest mountain, Gerlach (name based on the village of Gerlachov; 8,710 ft.) hidden in clouds in the west, across the Granáty ("Garnets") range to Slavkovský štít ("Village-of-Slavkov Peak"; 8,045 ft.) in the east.
Murnau's somewhat inconsistent notes in the screenplay indicate that the arrival at and departure from the "Carpathian inn" were filmed at Dolný Kubín, where he was also reported to have hired Jozef Sárený as an extra for the role of the head coachman.
With only wooded rolling hills in Germany except along the southernmost Bavarian border, Murnau found high-altitude pans and long-lens details of craggy tops of Slovakia's mountains and a waterfall sufficiently formidable to convey the drama in Nosferatu in several places.
The dangers, yet unknown to Hutter, are underscored for the viewer with two pans of stirring mountain views shown on the screen while Hutter is asleep. Both were taken during the morning hours through noon from Poľský hrebeň ("Polish Ridge"), the most difficult filming location of Nosferatu, when porters needed to carry the heavy camera and cans with film from 5,500 ft. to 7,200 ft. and haul them up a rock wall secured with chains.
The first pan starts looking west (left screenshot) at Velický Peak ("Veľká-Creek-Valley Peak"; 7,605 ft.) and moves left (south) toward Litvorový štít ("Angelica Peak"; 7,917 ft.) along the ridge north of Gerlach.
The second pan (right screenshot) also moves from right to left (north to north-west) across Zamrznutý kotol ("Frozen Combe"), the upper terrace of Svišťová dolina ("Marmot Valley"), with a central view of Zamrznuté pleso ("Frozen Alpine Lake"; 6,604 ft.), whose ice-free surface indicates that the filming took place in late summer–early fall, which was how long it normally took for its ice to melt in the summer during the colder decades of the 20th century – hence its name.
As soon as Hutter's post coach departs from the inn, a long-lens static shot framing the tops of the Granáty ("Garnets"), reminiscent of the previous night pans, alerts the viewer again to the likely drama ahead of him.
Looking north-east, from left to right: Rohatá veža ("Horned Tower"; 7,938 ft.), Roh ("Horn"), and Malá... and Veľká granátová veža ("Small..." and "Large Garnet Tower"; 7,602 ft.), the shot was filmed comfortably from the vicinity of Velické pleso ("Village-of-Veľká-Creek Alpine Lake"; 6,449 ft.), reached by coach, in late afternoon.
6 Post coach: Velická Valley
The short takes of Hutter's post coach ride were filmed along the road up Velická dolina ("Village-of-Veľká-Creek Valley"), from Tatranská Polianka (3,281 ft.) to Velické Lake (6,449 ft.) five miles north-west of it. Two separate shots from the road were used later in the story.
The post coach first drives Hutter through deciduous trees and bushes in the vicinity of Tatranská Polianka (identified as such only in Murnau's notes).
11 Ghostly evenings: Končistá
A west-looking contre-jour shot of Končistá, with the lower peak of Klin ("Wedge"; 7,172 ft.) to its left (south), flashes on the screen and fades to black as Hutter's second night at Orlok's castle draws near, before the intertitle warns, "The ghostly evening light seemed to bring the castle shadows to life again."
An almost identical shot (the right screenshot above) from a slightly shifted location is inserted before Hutter's third night at the castle, after he discovers Orlok's coffin. Both were filmed from the Velická Valley road through what the screenplay said should be "fantastische" tree trunks.
Commonly mistaken for another castle, the ruins of Starý hrad ("Old Castle"), also called Starhrad (or Varínsky hrad, Varín), appear on the screen as the last shot of Nosferatu – an image of Orlok's castle in decay just before the words Die Ende, which lets the viewers' thoughts linger on the horrors of its owner's formerly almost eternal power and gruesome demise.
With no maintenance, its walls collapsing and progressively overgrown by trees, Starhrad's decline (filmed by Murnau in 1921 on the left) has advanced through the present (right).