Made in 1922, F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu changed cinema history forever. Based on Bram Stoker's Dracula, Nosferatu is essentially the same story, but told from a more humanistic perspective. This was not an accident. It was F.W. Murnau's changes that gave the film its horrific effects. While modern renditions of the Dracula characters (Bella Lugosi, Frank Langella, Gary Oldman, etc.) have been satarized and lampooned for their decidedly silly, theatrical renditions of the character, Murnau designed the character Graf Orlok to be a a human being, not a detached halloween costume.
Orlok in the film is a real person, fully fleshed out, and develops a lust which cannot be contained because of an affliction which cannot be cured; he is in agony. Mureau makes sure to amplify this aspect of Schreck's performance as Orlok in order to properly tell the story. It was because of this performance, given by Schreck and expertly handled by Murnau, that Nosferatu has remained relevant to cinema today.
As a director, Mureau was heavily influenced by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Shakespeare as well as many Isben plays he attended as a child. Murnau was fascinated by the human psyche and this is mirrored in his films. Murnau was one of the first mainstream directors to have a subjective use of the camera, meaning that the camera was used as a story-telling device and could be altered and changed to reflect the points of view or emotions of the characters. Nosferatu uses this technique to create a more stylishly creepy and chilling atmosphere as well as communicate the desperation of its lead, Orlok.
Murnau was a pioneer in the filmmaking industry and, although his life was cut short at the age of 42 in a tragic automobile accident, his impact on the filmmaking industry will never be forgotten, particualrly Nosferatu, the film that catapulted him into the mainstream.