Shadow of the Vampire



Jurassic Mark

SCORE: 3 Stars

Shadow of the Vampire contains an extraordinary performance from Willem Dafoe.  If members of the Motion Picture Academy actually see Shadow of the Vampire, then Dafoe is virtually assured a nomination for Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor.
Dafoe plays actor Max Schreck.  Schreck played the vampire in F. W. Murnau's silent classic Nosferatu.  But, Shadow of the Vampire isn't interested in a factual account of the making of Nosferatu.  The twist here is that Schreck is a real vampire.  And, worse than that, director Murnau (John Malkovich) knew it when he was cast.
It's an intriguing premise.  How far will Malkovich go to make his movie authentic?  What is Dafoe's motivation to star in a movie?  The director and the vampire use each other for their own personal goals.
It's hard to believe that anyone could upstage John Malkovich, but Dafoe does.  As Schreck, he is equal parts revolting and funny.  You see, only Malkovich knows Schreck's secret.  The crew thinks of Schreck as a mystery who refuses to get out of character during filming.   This leads to a fascinating scene where members of the crew "play along" with Schreck and ask him questions about being a vampire.  The change that comes over Schreck is intriguing.  Ask him a straight question and you get a straight answer.   In the middle of the conversation, Dafoe grabs a bat out of mid-air and begins to feed.  The cast members are left shaking their heads, muttering "what a great actor."  Yes, indeed.
Even though Dafoe steals the show, Malkovich is the central character.  The movie is about his obsession with creating Nosferatu.  Shadow of the Vampire is a sly tale, and one of the best movies of 2000.