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E. Elias Merhige

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Shadow of the Vampire (2000) - E. Elias Merhige

Shadow of the Vampire (2000) - E. Elias Merhige [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Clever, engaging, and boosted by the sublime casting of Willem Dafoe as Nosferatu actor Max Schreck, Shadow of the Vampire is a film full of good ideas that are only partially developed. Its premise is ripe with possibilities, but the movie's too slight to register much impact, so you're left to relish its delightful performances and director E. Elias Merhige's affectionately tongue-in-cheek homage to a landmark of German silent cinema. John Malkovich is aptly loony as the eccentric director F.W. Murnau, whose passion in filming the 1922 classic Nosferatu leads to the extreme casting of Schreck as the vampire, a vision of evil who, in this movie's delightfully twisted imagination, actually is a vampire, sucking the blood of cast and crewmembers who've dismissed Schreck as an overzealous method actor.

As these on-set maladies and "accidents" continue, Schreck wields greater control over Murnau, who descends into a kind of obsessive art-for-art's-sake madness until diva costar Greta Schroeder (Catherine McCormack, doing wonderful work) is served up as the actor's ultimate motivation. Merhige and his actors (including Cary Elwes, as intrepid cameraman Fritz Wagner) have great fun with this ghastly escapade, and the humor is kept delicately subtle to balance the movie's artistic aspirations. To that end, Dafoe is just right, his bald pate and gaunt features a perfect match for the mysterious Schreck, his grimace and talon-like fingers suggesting a human vulture on the prowl. Likewise, the re-creation of Nosferatu's expressionist style is both fanciful and brilliantly authentic. Too bad, then, that this movie suffers a mild case of vampiric anemia; if it shared the depth and richness of, say, Ed Wood, this might have been a cult classic for the ages. --Jeff Shannon for Amazon.com

Director E. Elias Merhige's debut feature Begotten is a stark, expressionistic retelling of the creation myth that, upon its debut in 1991, was lauded by critics as diverse as Time's Richard Corliss and Susan Sontag. This cult favorite was also silent, so it seems like kismet that nearly a decade after Begotten Merhige's second assignment is Shadow of the Vampire. This witty, black comic horror tale stars John Malkovich as pioneering auteur F.W. Murnau, who proves he will go to any length to achieve his obsessive artistic vision when he hires Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe) to play the title character in 1922's Nosferatu. --http://www.reel.com/reel.asp?node=features/interviews/merhige [Nov 2005]

Shadow of the Vampire is a movie that opened in America on December 29, 2000. It was directed by E. Elias Merhige and written by Steven Katz, and it starred John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe and Udo Kier. Nicolas Cage was one of the producers. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_of_the_Vampire [Nov 2005]

Begotten (1991) - E. Elias Merhige

Begotten (1991) - E. Elias Merhige [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

In a hurry, I grabbed "Begotten" from the rental shelf because the art on the box front promised something different and disturbing. I took the tape home in a plain plastic tape box, having never read the synopsis on the back and whatever comments it may have had on it from the critics. I watched it alone in the dark after midnight, with no idea what it was about and no preconceived notions. From start to finish, I was transfixed. "Begotten" is a primal, subconscious, fever-dream. What one comes away with, after seeing it, tells more about the viewer than it does about the film. With the final credits, I discovered that the film maker called his characters "self-destroying god", "earth mother", etc. At its core, "Begotten" works as a parable about the cycle of life from death, an image which both starts and completes the film. But all the same, I'm glad these labels were saved for the end, as it allowed me to find my own meaning. The Mother and Son were distinct individuals to me rather than archetypes in a pagan cosmology. I saw a cold, self-involved mother reject her imperfect son, only to embrace him after he'd been accepted by the other women. Upon taking him from their protection, Mother and Son are attacked by a society that fears and hates the son's imperfection and the mother who could give birth to one such as he. (...) What was done to the mother was too much like rape and murder to be seen as anything less appalling. The son mourning at his dead mother's body was for me the most memorable image of the whole piece. The attempt to obliterate Mother and Son by cutting away their remains, paralleled the father's attempts at self obliteration with which the story began, and in the end, proved as futile. Life from death, full circle. Of course, your mileage may vary. This is one of those rare films where the individual must become involved on a personal level, or they will get nothing from it. Personally, this one will be with me for the rest of my life, and that is not a bad thing. --a viewer for amazon.com

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