Nosferatu a Venezia (1988) is a rare film which can successfully sustain claims of both total incompetence and artistic genius. Both claims have strong merit.
The ancient evil residing in the tomb might actually be the legendary vampire, Nosferatu (Klaus Kinski), to whom Professor Catalano has devoted his life’s study. Opening the tomb, the professor argues, would be unleashing too great an evil. He presents evidence supporting his claim:
Two hundred years prior to the present day, Nosferatu’s last known appearance occurred in Venice while a plague was overtaking the populace. Specifically, Nosferatu was last seen in the princess’s palatial manor and had given one of her ancestors the vampire’s kiss. Nosferatu disappeared thereafter, never having been seen again.
The princess is adamant. The family and the house are cursed, and the curse must be lifted. She schedules a séance at her home where a medium successfully summons Nosferatu from his slumber. Interestingly, it appears that during the séance, the ancestor of the princess channeled her spirit through the body of the princess. Nosferatu, in effect, must have been called back to the world of the living by his last victim who is also clearly in love with the creature. Shit is about to go from bad to worse.
facts, which are mostly corroborated by Luigi Cozzi, an assistant to the production, here (especially pages five and six). Given the production problems, it is unsurprising then that Nosferatu a Venezia appears disjointed and poorly-structured. The film is totally unengaging on an emotional level and extremely difficult to follow, despite a very simple narrative. Producer, and subsequent director, Augusto Caminito failed to make a film equal in praise to its predecessor, Werner Herzog’s masterful Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979). Instead, at its most superficial level, Nosferatu a Venezia is a travelogue of the beautiful city of Venice and of Klaus Kinski traversing its streets, alleys, and canals. In between the sequences of the city and of Kinski, some story unfolds. This is not say that there are not brilliant sequences which are very memorable.
Anyone who has had the pleasure of reading Klaus Kinski’s autobiography, Kinski Uncut, is well aware that Kinski quite enjoyed fucking or at the minimum, quite enjoyed writing about fucking in descriptive detail. Unfortunately, I could decipher little in its text about Nosferatu a Venezia, but the final act of the film seems as if it could have come from pages from his autobiography. Describing the final act, here, would be a disservice, but I hope that I have hinted towards its content sufficiently. The final act is ridiculous, over-the-top, and much like the final film, totally incompetent or artistically brilliant.
Nosferatu a Venezia has a DVD release from Germany, available here. It is well worth seeing, if you are a serious fan of the antiquities and curios of European cult cinema.