Writer Steven Katz’s playful premise is that German director F.W. Murnau (John Malkovich) persuaded a real vampire to star in his 1922 horror classic, Nosferatu
, Eine Symphonie des Grauens
. This flash point of art, obsession and the macabre turns the obscure past of actor Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe), who played Nosferatu
's grotesque Count Orlock, into a comic fantasy that links bloodsucking to filmmaking. Director E. Elias moves lucidly between color and black-and-white footage, bringing the world of hand-cranked cameras, in which directors narrate the action for their actors and telegraph their emotions, to vibrant life, but the film’s diverse elements (history, horror, comedy, melodrama) coagulate on contact rather than intermingle into something more potent.