This strange and dream-like German silent movie is an adaption of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, (1897), with several changes incorporated. For example, the vampire character is called “Count Orlock.”
According to Wikipedia, Nosferatu is an example of the artistic movement German Expressionism, as is another famous silent film, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. German Expressionist directors and artists employed dreamlike, moody effects, fantastical settings and purposely distorted, unrealistic portrayals. The rhythmic pacing was intentional: the director used a metronome during filming.
My personal favorite parts of the film are the eerie use of shadows and the unintentionally comic scenes of the vampire carrying his own coffin through the village, like a suitcase.
In the original script, Harker’s wife, Ellen, sacrifices herself to Count Orlock to ensure his doom, as she read it was in her power to do. The 1979 German remake of Nosferatu the Vampyre makes this sacrifice more explicit.
The producers neglected to seek permission from the Stoker estate to create the film and they were sued. Although the film was ordered to be destroyed, some reels survived. The 1922 movie was banned in Sweden — for being too scary! — until 1972. This version has been restored and features the adapted Hans Erdmann score.
The original, black-and-white version of Nosferatu is in the public domain.