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Having just purchased the DVD of F.W. Murnau's great Nosferatu, I'm intrigued by the way the mood of the film itself changes when different versions of the soundtrack are played. This DVD contains two separate soundtracks: one is an organ score based on the original score used for this film in the days of the silent era, whereas the other is a modern orchestral symphony composed especially for this DVD by "The Silent Orchestra," a.k.a. musicians Carlos Garza and Rich O'Meara. The organ score is eerie and moody, but I find myself drawn more towards the modern-day score, with its drums and bells and string instruments. Maybe it's because I grew up in the modern era of movies, where fully orchestral movie soundtracks are the norm. In the silent days, of course, the soundtrack was provided either by a live organist or by playing a pre-recorded soundtrack (though I think the live organists were more popular - when theaters could afford them), so having a full symphony soundtrack was probably a rarity in those days. Nosferatu was a work of art, but I don't think it was a high-prestige film: since Bram Stoker's widow successfully sued the production company and the movie was ordered to be destroyed, I can't imagine that many high-brow, luxurious movie palaces would have screened this movie. So the organ soundtrack was more of the norm.

But the orchestral score composed for this DVD is very appealing: it's almost 'avante-garde' in its use of instruments, especially with the way bells are used to create an eerie, dream-like atmosphere during the journey to the castle of Count Orlok. I've heard of the controversy surrounding the 'modernized' soundtracks created for various silent films, such the Club Foot Orchestra's score for Sherlock Jr. or the famous (infamous?) Moroder presentation of Metropolis…but in the case of Nosferatu I think the symphonic soundtrack works very well.

(The picture quality on the DVD is very good, as well. I don't have the laserdisc issue of the film from the mid-1990s, so I can't say offhand which version has a better quality print.)