I’m still pondering Nosferatu by Paul Monette. It’s based on the 1979 screenplay of the same name by Werner Herzog, so Monette isn’t the one who came up with the story, which is quite different than Stoker’s original, but he is the one responsible for the evocative, downright spooky writing.
The story is roughly the same as Stoker’s Dracula, in that there is a man who goes to Transylvania to sell a count a house. The count is actually a vampire, who takes the man captive and then moves to the man’s hometown where he turns other people into vampires, including the man’s wife. That is, however, where the similarities end.
Nosferatu reads like what’s called in the comics world an “Elseworld”, where settings and characters are twisted around and then let loose. In this version, Jonathan Harker’s (the man in the above scenario) wife is called Lucy, not Mina, but she acts somewhat like Stoker’s Mina. The character called Mina is Lucy’s sister in law, and is quite a bit of a wench. Renfeld is Jonathan’s boss, and Dr. Van Helsing runs the sanatorium. The other male characters are missing, and the final showdown happens in the hometown, not after them having traveled again to Transylvania. The biggest Elseworlds change is that Dracula’s ultimate “invasion” is in the form of the plague.
Where Stoker’s Dracula was full of sexual symbolism and undertones, Nosferatu focuses on the religious. Instead of being the open, sexual being that she is in Stoker’s book, Mina (Lucy in the original) is pious and rigid in her beliefs. This leaves her as open to Dracula’s advances as her wantonness did in the original. The vampire myth’s perversion of the Christ story is pointed out, (the offer of everlasting life, return from the dead, the blood is the life…) and used to good effect.
The ending of the book is what has me puzzled, however. Throughout the story, Lucy uses the strength of her love to combat the darkness that she senses is coming. It fends off Dracula’s attacks, and saves her husband. But when she makes the ultimate sacrifice to save everyone, not just her husband and herself, her efforts are successful, but ultimately in vain as Renfeld leaves carrying the vampiric plague, and Jonathan remembers nothing of her sacrifice and heads back to the mountains that tried to claim his soul. Given the religious themes of the story, this leads me to believe that the thesis is that God and religion can’t save man, because man just doesn’t listen. Numerous times warnings are given, visions are seen, and either they are misinterpreted or dismissed by those who could solve the problem. Lucy sacrifices her life to save humanity (ie. Christ), and it doesn’t make a difference, and no one cares. It seems not to be saying that God is incapable of saving man, but that man won’t let Him, won’t go along with the plan.
It’s an interesting thesis, and one I need to think about more to determine if it’s really what’s being said. Regardless, the book is very well written, very dark, and very enjoyable.
Current total: 4
Just finished: Nosferatu by Paul Monette
Next Up: Ripening Seed by Colette
My limited knowledge of Herzog would would lead me to believe that’s not an unreasonable interpretation. He seems to have a thing for people who soldier on blind to the obstacles confronting their mad schemes.