Babeş-Bolyai University, Romania
The Shadow Archetype of the Vampire in Three Horror Movies
Abstract: In the following paper we explore the shadow archetype (a term we have taken from C. G. Jung) of the vampire in three movies influenced by Bram Stoker’s modern gothic novel, Dracula (1897). Analyzing three scenes from the horror movies Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922), Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht (1979) and Dracula (1992) we gain insight in the true nature of the vampire: his oscillation between demonism and inhumanity; his beastly devotion to natural necessity; the destruction of his shadowy character by the anima.
Keywords: Shadow; Anima; Archetypes; Jungian Film Studies; Vampire; Horror Movie; Modern Gothic; Inhumanity; Demonism.
“I love … the shadow” (Bram Stoker’s Dracula)
The Vampire as the Shadow
One might speak of the vampire as the radical alterity of man. The vampire can be understood as the not-man (a term introduced by Emil Cioran in On the Heights of Despair), as one of the characters of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) seems to infer: “What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature is it in the semblance of man?” Therefore, this particular monster is beyond humanity, a sort of “over-man” (not necessarily in the spirit of this Nietzschean term but in its letter), perhaps “beyond good and evil”. The vampire expresses the fear of the theologians, that transcending both good and evil is the work of a demon, the endeavor of an purely evil being. In Jungian terms, the vampire might be the personification of the shadow archetype, the sworn enemy of mankind, the tempter or the principle of evil incarnate (in other words a variation of the devil):
And indeed it is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow-side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism.
The snake, like the devil in Christian theology, represents the shadow, and one which goes far beyond anything personal and could therefore best be compared with a principle, such as the principle of evil.
But the shadow which lies over the world is, as we know from the Gospels, the princeps huius mundi, the devil.
It is intriguing to think of the vampire as man’s shadow, considering that in Bram Stoker’s novel vampires cast no reflection and throw no shadow. However, in Copolla’s version of Dracula from 1992, the “shadow of the vampire” is an essential feature of the vampire’s personality, as we see in the scene where Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) signs the contract and makes his ironic speech about his longing to share “the life and death” of the London crowd, while his shadow almost attacks Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves). The shadow of the vampire or, if I may say so, “the shadow of the shadow” is the soul of the monster, his true face hidden by a not very efficient persona, judging by Jonathan Harker’s subsequent insight into the nature of the Count. Moreover, in E. Elias Merhige’s movie from 2000, aptly called The Shadow of the Vampire, a fictionalized account of the making of Murnau’s Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922), the brilliant Max Schreck (played by Willem Defoe) is considered to be a real vampire. Therefore, the shadow of the vampire is, almost like the shadow of man, his authentic subconscious personality, his powerful “personal truth”. What does the vampire truly want? That depends on whom we ask. Starting from Bram Stoker’s original novel, I will investigate the main features of vampirism in three movies: the aforemetioned Nosferatu and Dracula and Werner Herzog’s remake of Nosferatu from 1979, Phantom der Nacht.
The Welcoming Scene
The Count makes a powerful impression in one of the early chapters of Stoker’s work:
Within, stood a tall old man, clean-shaven save for a long white moustache, and clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of colour about him anywhere … His face was a strong – a very strong –aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples, but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale and at the tops extremely pointed; the chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor … The nails were long and fine, and cut to a sharp point. As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me, I could not repress a shudder. It may have been that his breath was rank, but a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which, do what I would, I could not conceal. The Count, evidently noticing it, drew back; and with a grim sort of smile, which showed more than he had yet done his protuberant teeth, sat himself down again on his own side of the fireplace.
If the Romantic contrast between the “Goth” black clothes and “extraordinary” pallor is the most obvious physical trait, we should also add that the Count’s mouth betrays the hidden cruelty, his lips show his wild vitality, while his breath or his general air give away a sense of animality, of non-humanity. Moreover, a sort of predator nonchalance, the playful mockery of a wolf that knows his prey surrounded, is the last trait of the Count, although one can only smell that: this trait is not yet visible like an inner black sun.
In Murnau’s Nosferatu, Thomas Hutter (played by Gustav von Wagenheim) is greeted by Count Orlok (the legendary Max Schreck) (the names of the characters were changed because the rights to the novel could not be obtained) in the inner court of the castle.
Scene from Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922).
We see an innocent and respectful Thomas Hutter (the alias of Jonathan Harker) welcomed by an imposing, threatening and devious Count, who significantly holds the keys of the castle (and of Thomas’s life). The inhuman (or perhaps over-human) look of the Count is also pervasive. Judging from the position of the Count’s hands, there is a suggestion to Orlok’s “Undead” statue: he looks like a living dead, like a risen corpse from the grave. We might almost think that Murnau has sensed the subliminal feeling of Stoker’s description from the novel: the Count looks like a predator, but not like one with a God complex that mocks his helpless prey – Orlok is a bit fearful that his game might slip from his reach, therefore he is more hidden and less self-confident than the original Count Dracula.
In Werner Herzog’s movie, Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz) is also greeted by an ascetic Count Dracula (played by another legend, Klaus Kinski) in the inner court of the castle, but this time the scene takes place at the door, signifying the bridge Jonathan must cross to enter the land of the Undead. The previous scenes from Herzog’s film are more important, namely the important information given to Jonathan by the wandering gypsies:
Innkeeper: The gypsies say that not such castle exist there except maybe in the imagination of man. There used to be a castle there. But now it is a ghost castle. It’s only a ruin. And whoever enters into the land of phantoms is lost and never returns.
Moreover, in the scenes before Dracula’s welcoming, Jonathan crosses by foot the BorgoPass, because no one will take the chance to drive him to Count’s castle. The superb soundtrack of this crossing is provided by the German electronic avant-garde band Popol Vuh – with their track, Brüder des Schattens – and by Richard Wagner, with his prelude to Das Rheingold. This wonderful music gives the impression of Jonathan crossing a sort of limbo, a threshold between life and death, between reality and imaginary. Moreover, at the sunset, when the two realms meet and Wagner’s prelude reaches a climax, we can see the “ghost castle” of Dracula, the home of the Undead which prepares to swallow the living.
In Coppola’s version, the viewer is impressed by the symbolism of the shadows. It is almost like Jonathan Harker’s shadow greets the shadow of the vampire and while Jonathan’s shadow is projected by his body, the shadow of the vampire precedes his movement, echoing Prince Vladimir I. Ghika’s a aphorism: “When we move towards light, the shadow follows us; when we move away from light, the shadow leads us.” The Count is completely dressed in red, displaying a more sensual side and a lust for life faithful to the “astonishing vitality” described by the Irish novelist. While Max Schreck and Klaus Kinski have a somewhat ascetic quality (one remembers the beastly deviousness of Schreck and the poetic charm of Kinski), Gary Oldman has a sense of humor and a playfulness that completely transcends the gravitas of the former actors.
The Mirror Scene
Jonathan’s shaving in front of a small mirror gives us an amazing account of the Count’s bestiality. Let us remember Stoker’s original description from the novel:
Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder, and heard the Count’s voice saying to me, ‘Good morning.’ I started, for it amazed me that I had not seen him, since the reflection of the glass covered the whole room behind me. In starting I had cut myself slightly, but did not notice it at the moment. Having answered the Count’s salutation, I turned to the glass again to see how I had been mistaken. This time there could be no error, for the man was close to me, and I could see him over my shoulder. But there was no reflection of him in the mirror! The whole room behind me was displayed; but there was no sign of a man in it, except myself. This was startling, and, coming on the top of so many strange things, was beginning to increase that vague feeling of uneasiness which I always have when the Count is near; but at that instant I saw that the cut had bled a little, and the blood was trickling over my chin. I laid down the razor, turning as I did so halfround to look for some sticking-plaster. When the Count saw my face, his eyes blazed with a sort of demoniac fury, and he suddenly made a grab at my throat. I drew away, and his hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix. It made an instant change in him, for the fury passed so quickly that I could hardly believe that it was ever there.
‘Take care,’ he said, ‘take care how you cut yourself. It is more dangerous than you think in this country.’ Then seizing the shaving-glass, he went on: ‘And this is the wretched thing that has done the mischief. It is a foul bauble of man’s vanity. Away with it!’ and opening the heavy window with one wrench of his terrible hand, he flung out the glass, which was shattered into a thousand pieces on the stones of the courtyard far below. Then he withdrew without a word.
This dangerous country is Transylvania (“We are in Transylvania, and Transylvania is not England,” warns Dracula), a sort of Neverland of hatred, pain and fear where our nightmares transport us, resembling with Metallica’s description of an existential inferno from Enter Sandman:
Sleep with one eye open
Gripping your pillow tight
Take my hand
Off to never never land.
“Away from this cursed spot, from this cursed land, where the Devil and his children still walk with earthly feet!” writes Jonathan Harker in his diary, exploring once more the idea that Transylvania is the Westerner’s inferno, a demonic abyss that must be conquered by all means.
In Murnau’s movie Thomas cuts himself when he attempts to slice the bread at the midnight supper with Count Orlok, who reads the purchase contract brought by lawyer. The Count observes the incident with the intense and demonic looks of a potential Mr. Hyde and walks zombielike to suck the blood from Thomas’s hand wound: “You’ve hurt yourself … the precious blood!” In Nosferatu the Count hardly refrains himself from assassinating his guest in the first night. In Herzog’s remake we have almost the exact same scene, with the Count’s new reasoning: “The knife is old and could be dirty. It could give you blood poisoning. Please let me do it. It’s the oldest remedy in the world.”
Scene from Herzog’s Phantom der Nacht (1979).
The mirror scene from Coppola’s Dracula is both (more) faithful to the original and comic. After Dracula breaks Jonathan’s mirror (the “foul bauble of man’s vanity”), he rapidly and secretly licks the blood off the razor, beginning himself to shave Jonathan. Because of his immortality, the vampire has a romantic status in the postmodern pop culture. However, Bram Stoker and the three analyzed directors explicitly show that the vampire is bound by the crude Hegelian “natural necessity”: his animality (his beastly nature) condemns him to be addicted to blood. To quote Stoker: “[H]e is even more prisoner than the slave of the galley, than the madman in his cell. He cannot go where he lists; he who is not of nature has yet to obey some of nature’s laws …”
The Final Scene (Anima the Slayer)
In Bram Stoker’s text Dracula attacks Mina (Jonathan Harker’s brilliant wife) and feeds her with his blood as a strategic counter-attack to Abraham Van Helsing’s plot: “And you, their best beloved one, are now to me flesh of my flesh; blood of my blood; kin of my kin; my bountiful wine-press for a while; and shall be later on my companion and my helper.” In the three analyzed movies, Dracula falls in love with Mina when he sees her picture from Jonathan’s papers. Therefore, one sees how the vampire turns from a creature of the grave to a loveable object, especially in Coppola’s version. Moreover, Jonathan Harker and Quincey Morris stab to death Dracula in Stoker’s novel, Mina observing the scene from the distance.
In Murnau’s movie Ellen Hutter (Greta Schröder) finds out that “[d]eliverance is possible by no other means but that an innocent maiden maketh the vampire heed not the first crowing of the cock – this done by the sacrifice of her own bloode.” Therefore, she sacrifices herself giving her body to a vampire that will be killed by sunrise, after a night of lust, in one of the most memorable scenes in the history of cinema.
Scene from Murnau’s Nosferatu.
The symbolism of the shadows explored by Coppola in his 1992 movie is even richer in the 1922 expressionist masterpiece directed by Murnau: before sucking the blood from the Ellen’s neck, the shadow of Orlok’s hand touches her heart, signifying that he will posses not only her body but also her spirit. Herzog follows Murnau; however, the scene of passion between Count Dracula and Lucy Harker (Herzog prefers to switch Mina with Lucy) (Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani) is more voluptuous and even more romantic compared to Murnau’s brutal minimalism. The passing of the time is measured with the flight of the Dracula’s bat, a sort of Unholy Ghost who communicates with the Count and tells him, perhaps, to retreat in the security of the coffin; however, an erotic death is more desirable for the vampire.
Scene from Coppola’s Dracula (1992).
Coppola’s Dracula is complicated with the love story between the Count (the historical 15th-century Wallachian ruler Vlad the Impaler) and Mina Murray (married Harker) (a reincarnation of his wife, Elizabeta, who supposedly commited suicide when he heard the false news of Vlad’s death). Dracula dresses like a fin de siècle dandy, seduces Mina with his magnetic charm, drinks absinthe with her, revealing their fateful bond: “You are the love of my life” says Dracula to Mina in Romanian, continuing in English: “I have crossed oceans of time to find you.” This is Coppola’s touch of genius perhaps: if Stoker’s novel was all about strategy, and Murnau’s and Herzog’s movie were about lust and sacrifice (a strategic surrender, albeit erotic, that brings with it the destruction of the demon), Coppola transforms a story of death (or Undeath or life in death) in a story of love transcending death, echoing Wagner’s famous Liebestod.
Mina reflects in her monologue from the end: “There, in the presence of God, I understood at last how my love could release us all from the powers of darkness. Our love is stronger than death.” It is the destiny of the vampire to die in the arms of the beloved one, just as in Jungian terms shadow is to be replaced by anima in the road for selfhood. Anima killing the shadow – it takes the nuclear power of a deeper archetype to destroy a more superficial one. What about the specifically human illusion that love is stronger than death? From a biological perspective that is surely an error; from a psychoanalytic point of view “love” always hides something else: self-interest, lust, domination and so on. Is Romantic Liebestod, is love transcending death another strategic machinery, a mask for “the demon or power” perhaps, a disguise for our biological immediate needs? Judging like that one will never leave the existential inferno, the Neverland of hatred and fear, the nightmare of the paralyzing truth. Sometimes you have to “use your illusion” (as a rock band argued in a Nietzschean fashion), sometimes you have to take “a leap of faith” in order to go beyond yourself. Underneath the mask of love lurks power; however, underneath the mask of hatred and fear rests a volcano of hidden love.
One might speak of the vampire as the radical otherness of the human being, as the shadow of man, a form of existence both inhuman and devilish. In Jungian terms the shadow is a personification of the principle of evil, i.e. the devil. Starting from Bram Stoker’s influential gothic novel from 1897, Dracula, I have investigated the image of the vampire in three key scenes of three major horror movies: the expressionist masterpiece Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) directed by F. W. Murnau, the brilliant remake Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht (1979) directed by Werner Herzog and the Hollywood Dracula (1992) directed by F.F. Coppola. The welcoming scene brings with it the inhumanity of the vampire (Murnau), the crossing of the threshold to imaginary (Herzog) and a digression on the symbolism of the shadows (Coppola). The mirror scene of all movies hides a truly unromantic aspect of the vampire, that he is bound by “natural necessity”, that he is prisoner being forced to consume human blood. The ending scene shows that the anima must slay the shadow, that the demonic figure must die in the arms of the loved ones.
This paper is a result of a doctoral research made possible by the financial support of the Sectorial Operational Programme for Human Resources Development 2007-2013, co-financed by the European Social Fund, under the project POSDRU/159/1.5/S/132400 – “Young successful researchers – professional development in an international and interdisciplinary environment”.
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