Sydney-based indie company Montague Basement resurrects FW Murnau’s silent classic Nosferatu to speak to the paradoxical reaction to the forces of globalisation: the world’s spiralling obsession with borders and infiltration.
Using Murnau’s title cards as a guide, the story is transposed to modern day Australia, where a real estate agent (played by Lulu Howes) is dispatched to secure the business of a wealthy international entrepreneur (Jeremi Campese), a mysterious figure whose presence has even the most laconic of locals feeling uneasy. Murnau’s stagecoach is now an Uber, but as in the film, the driver will only dare take you so far.
If you are familiar with the film (and if not, I’d recommend watching it before you see this production), you’ll feel its undertow even without referring to the title cards, which are projected on a small screen above designer Victor Kalka’s set. Without that grounding, the script may seem more digressive than it actually is.
Connections forged between the original film and the global politics of the present are often quite inspired but under the direction of Saro Lusty-Cavallari, Nosferatu mostly gets by on a mischievous sense of humour and the work of a versatile cast.
Jeremi Campese is a live-wire Count; a hyperactive figure whose introductory monologue (a mash-up of devilish words from literature, pop culture and film) earned a spontaneous round of applause on opening night.
A clever pastiche of the “Where the Bloody Hell Are You?” tourism campaign came close to earning another for Lucy Burke and Annie Stafford, who demonstrate their range playing several characters apiece. And while playing style is non-naturalistic for the most part, Howes suffers eloquently as the Count sucks the life out of her.
There are times when Nosferatu feels like a sketch version of a more complex production but for the most part, this “Fractured Symphony” offers a persuasive take on the idea that horror films offer a space where our unacknowledged fears can be approached, explored and vicariously experienced.