All three versions of Nosferatu have taken advantage of spooky locations in Czechia and Slovakia.
An upcoming remake of Nosferatu is the third – and all three films had scenes shot in the Czech Republic or its predecessor, Czechoslovakia. The classic of Gothic cinema started as an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s seminal vampire novel Dracula. While the castles are supposedly in Transylvania, all of the versions used Czech or Slovak castles instead.
While most people associate Transylvania with vampires due to the Dracula novel and films, there is a long history of vampire lore in Czechia and Slovakia as well and a real vampire panic took place in the early 1700s.
The latest remake of Nosferatu was mainly filmed in the Czech Republic from February to mid-May 2023 and then moved to Romania – where Transylvania is located – for two weeks of location work. The film should be released in 2024.
The production has been quite secretive, which is not unusual. Director Robert Eggers previously made The Witch, The Lighthouse and The Northman. This remake of Nosferatu stars Bill Skarsgård as Count Orlok, Nicholas Hoult as Thomas Hutter, Lily-Rose Depp as Ellen Hutter, and Willem Dafoe as Professor Albin Eberhart Von Franz – a character who was not in previous versions.
Locations in Prague include Invalidovna, an 18th century Baroque former military hospital that also appeared in Amadeus as the mental hospital. The building has fallen into disrepair, though renovations and a new modern-looking extension are now planned.
The ruins of Rožmitál pod Třemšínem, also known as Rosenthal Castle, in Central Bohemia were also used, most likely as Count Orlok’s home. It has high walls with small windows, so it could be where Hutter is held hostage before trying to climb down to escape. It dates to the 13th century, and for several centuries was owned by the Catholic Church, unti it was nationalized in World War II. Prague’s Barrandov Studio, one of Europe’s largest and best equipped, housed the sets for the film.
There was such little info about the filming that when Willem Dafoe made a social media post that he ate a bowl of Ukrainian borscht in a neighborhood eatery, it was covered as news.
Eggers’ love for horror cinema dated to when he saw the original 1922 version of Nosferatu as a teen, and doing a remake has long been a dream of his. He even directed a stage play of the film when he was in high school. Development on the film began in 2015, with several cast changes along the way before the cameras finally rolled.
Murnau's classic 1922 original Nosferatu
The 1922 original is still regarded as one of the best horror films ever made. For Transylvania, director F.W. Murnau used locations in northern Slovakia, with the High Tatra and Malá Fatra mountain ranges standing in for the Carpathians.
Count Orlock’s castle was a combination of places. The ominous mountaintop ruins seen from a distance are Strečno, near the Slovak city of Žilina. The ruins though, are little more than walls with no actual rooms surviving.
The built up areas seen from closer up are Orava Castle (Oravský hrad), also near Žilina, and the nearby village of Oravsky Podzámok. More scenes of roads and valleys were shot in the surrounding Dolný Kubín district. The small roadside Chapel of Divine Mercy still exists. The steep valley is Vrátna dolina in the Malá Fatra mountain range. The democratic country of Czechoslovakia was just four years old when filming took place. It still lacked its own film industry, but was used by neighboring Germany for locations.
Nosferatu revisited by Werner Herzog in 1979
In 1979, German director Werner Herzog also took on Nosferatu in simultaneous German-language and English-language versions starring Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani and Bruno Ganz. The American studio that co-financed the production was unhappy with the English version and originally dumped a shortened cut, which got mixed reviews. The full version, a significant improvement, became available in 2000 and now is on streaming services.
Herzog is known for taking a documentary approach to his films, and he put an emphasis on real locations rather than studio sets. For the Transylvania parts of the film, he relied on Moravia, which is the eastern part of what is now Czechia, and Slovakia. At the time he filmed, the country was still Czechoslovakia but was under communist rule. Since the novel Dracula was now in the public domain, Herzog restored the names of Dracula and the other characters.
The Czech castle Pernštejn was used mainly for its interior, but a few outside details like doorways are also shown. Additional filming took place in the nearby village of Nedvědice. The castle dates to the 13th century and has retained much of its original Gothic character, despite several renovations. It has been a cultural monument since 1995. More street scenes were filmed in Telč, a town that has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992 for its Gothic and Renaissance facades.
Slovakia’s High Tatra and Malá Fatra mountains again stood in for the Carpathians. The ruins of Strečno were briefly used again for the long shots of Dracula’s castle. The ruins have since been partly renovated so they don’t exactly match what is seen in either film.
Nosferatu had an influence on our The Bohemian Gothic Tarot deck – how could it not! The King of Cups card is clearly based on the figure of Nosferatu and has a poignancy that can also be found in the films. More vampires are shown on the Queen of Cups, the Queen of Swords, the Four of Cups and The Lovers, though these are of the perhaps more familiar Count Dracula and his wives type of scenes.
Czechia has become a hub for international productions due to its locations, studios, and low productions costs. Other horror films shot there include Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985), Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997), From Hell (2001), Blade II (2002), Deathwatch (2002), Van Helsing (2004), Hellboy (2004), Hostel (2005), The Omen (2006), Hostel: Part II (2007), The Brothers Grimm (2005) and Underworld: Blood Wars (2016).