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Slovak Studies Program

Martin Votruba

 

Nosferatu (1922), Slovak locations

 

 

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Instead of distant Transylvania, the filmmakers of the German classic, Nosferatu, took the short trip to nearby Slovakia in late summer–early fall of 1921 to shoot all the filmic Transylvanian locations there, about 15% of the film's runtime. Contrary to some sources, they were distributed in places up to 90 miles from each other (click here for additional details). The Slovak location clips selected in the video follow the sequence in which they appear in the film, the descriptions below cover more scenes than just those in the video sample. The director, F. W. Murnau (Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe), had the black-and-white stock tinted in postproduction to indicate day, night, and menace.
As Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) arrives in the Carpathians, the location is a panorama of the High Tatras from (click on:) Gerlach to Slavkovský Peak four miles east of it, shot from the vicinity of Nová Lesná – also the location with the fearful horses at night, the hyena shot (placed there in Murnau's notes), and the morning horse roundup with Slavkovský Peak as the backdrop to what was edited in as Hutter's POV through the inn window (none of the latter scenes are included among the clips above).
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 the High Tatras sufficiently formidable to insert them between Hutter's evening and morning scenes at the inn in order to convey the drama Hutter did not know was taking place around him while he was asleep: pans of Velický Peak and Zamrznutý kotol ("Frozen Combe"), the upper terrace of Svišťová dolina ("Marmot Valley"), both shot from Poľský hrebeň ("Polish Ridge"), the most difficult filming location of Nosferatu, which required porters to carry the heavy equipment from 5,500 ft. to 7,200 ft. and haul it up a rock wall secured with chains.
A long-lens shot framing, from left to right, Rohatá veža ("Horned Tower"), Roh ("Horn"), and Malá and Veľká granátová veža ("Small..." and "Large Garnet Tower") filmed from Velické pleso ("Veľká-Creek-Valley Alpine Lake") was inserted after the departure of Hutter's mail coach from the inn.
The coach drives Hutter through deciduous tres and bushes in the vicinity of Tatranská Polianka (identified as such only in Murnau's notes). It then turns a sharp bend with a view of Končistá, while Hutter begins to worry about the encroaching night – neither shot is included among the clips. When the head coachman (Jozef Sárený, an extra cast in Dolný Kubín) refuses to take him any farther, the location is at Velické pleso, the fateful bridge he crosses on foot is over the stream that flows out of it. The wider bridge his coach rides on earlier was lower down the road to Velické pleso (it is now partly rerouted with an asphalt surface and a concrete bridge).

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Filmed with Hutter's mail coach ride, two very similar westward-facing contre-jour shots of Klin and Končistá through trees (the script called for "fantastische" tree trunks) flash on the screen and fade to black before Hutter's second and third (above) nights at Orlok's castle. The intertitle warns after the first shot, "The ghostly evening light seemed to bring the castle shadows to life again."
After the storyline brings Hutter to the other side of a mountain pass, mentioned only in the intertitles, the location jumps about 80 miles. The low angle the filmmakers found for the first brief shot of the fanciful Oravský Castle misled some critics into believing it was a miniature special effect by making it appear that the steep cliff with the upper part of Oravský Castle on top was off the perpendicular.
Before Hutter reaches Count Orlok's (Max Schreck) home, the locations for his walk past the shell of a tiny wayside chapel and his subsequent ride in a black carriage, including the acclaimed "white forest" segment (not in the clip), are at Vrátna dolina ("Reversion Valley" or "Gate Valley"), 25 miles from Oravský Castle – the location of all the exteriors at Orlok's residence.
Instead of howling wolves required by the screenplay and already filmed in Germany, a brief shot of a narrow horsetail waterfall at Jánošíkove diery ("Jánošík's Holes") is inserted to suggest drama and perhaps the flow of blood in the scene when Count Orlok is about to enter Hutter's room.
As Count Orlok departs for Germany, the location with the raft transporting him in a coffin is near the Margita and Besná rapids ("Margaret and the Rabid [Rock]") on the Váh River.
The last shot of Nosferatu, Count Orlok's castle in decay, is the ruins of Starý hrad ("Old Castle") on a cliff above the Váh in north-central Slovakia (sources often misidentify it as another castle ruin, now partly restored, less than 2 miles away).

 

More on Slovak Nosferatu locations.

 

Slovak cinema 1918-1939.

 

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