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Suck city: Movie brings old vampire to New York

Back in black (and white): The animated film “NYsferatu,” screening in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Sept. 7, retells a classic horror story with a modern-day twist.
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This flick gives an old movie life after undeath.

A new animated horror film updates and upends a classic silent vampire movie to explore the immigrant experience in New York City. “NYsferatu: Symphony of a Century,” playing in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Sept. 7, gives the 1922 German film “Nosferatu” a modern New York setting and a blood-sucking character who may not be as bad as you think. Its Italian-born creator spent three years drawing the film, but says that the recent immigration restrictions suggested by the tweeter-in-chief have made the film resonate more than ever.

“My project never changed, but now that so many people today are afraid of Trump and what he’ll do — the project really reflects that,” said Andrea Mastrovito.

The filmmaker and a team of animators drew the 65-minute black and white film over frames of “Nosferatu,” but replaced the German city in the original with scenes in the modern-day Big Apple. In this version, the vampire Count Orlock travels from Syria to New York City, carrying his coffin through Washington Square Park while he searches for a place to stay.

The silent film relied on title cards to convey dialogue, but Mastrovito rewrote the script to portray the city as a dog-eat-dog world, filled with struggles that newcomers must deal with.

“It’s a dystopia,” he said. “I don’t see the city this way, but the whole movie is a quest for freedom and everyone finds it different — kind of like a vampire sucking the life out of you.”

The film was informed by discussions with recent immigrants and English language learners, as well as by the songs of Metallica, which helped Mastrovita come up with the tone of his film.

“They were a very big source of my inspiration because music is a very important in a silent movie,” he said. “The feeling of the movie is very similar to a metal song.”

The original film ends — spoiler alert for a 95-year-old movie — with the Count being destroyed. But the movie’s more sympathetic portrayal of the character gives the ending a somber note, which encourages the audience to think more deeply about the film, said Mastrovita.

“For a lot of people I know the movie is quite sad, but you have to find the flowers from the bad things in life, and you have to take a look at the movie to see that the shadow wasn’t the real enemy,” he said.

“NYsferatu” at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Harbor View Lawn, Pier 1 [enter at Furman Street and Old Fulton Street in Dumbo, www.nysferatu.org]. Sept. 7 at 7:30 pm. Free.

In Sunset Park [Fifth Avenue between 41st and 44th streets in Sunset Park. Sept. 9 at 7:30 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Posted 12:00 am, August 22, 2017
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