It must be the week of horrors for me, as Halloween is almost here and the atmosphere is getting heavier and spookier so do my viewing choices. My theory is that in the midst of autumn, when the sky is already dark as soon as late afternoon and the cold is sharp, we are involuntarily placed in a claustrophobic mental mode. Late last night, before going to bed I decided to watch only one scene from my all time favourite, and admittedly classic film of F.F.Coppola, starring the brilliant Gary Oldman, and of course I ended up watching the entire film again. But it is so hard to resist its powerful and mysterious setting (even when you are more than familiar with the story) that is partly attributed to the incredible and so characteristic score composed by Wojciech Kilar.
Let me note here that I happen to consider the “Twilight” series to be the ultimate hubris of the Vampire genre (vampires are NOT wining, sparkling, cheesy teenagers), so I urge anyone who had enjoyed themselves (somehow) with these films to give this one a shot. Inspired by Stoker’s novel the film portrays the Count’s quest to reunite with his true love Elisabeta four centuries after their cruel separation. Elisabeta’s soul has returned in the (literally identical) body of Mina who loves Jonathan but cannot fight her predestined feelings for Dracula.
Amongst the talented cast (apart from Keanu Reeves who is truly so inadequate and at times, ridiculously bad that makes me wonder what Coppola saw in him, and Winona Ryder that annoys me most of the time) the following actors made the strongest impression:
- Gary Oldman is a character actor who brings out the humanity in the Count. The scene in which he abandons his human nature renouncing God and becomes an immortal avenger is breathtaking and fierce. The voice quality that he achieves enhances the mysterious and tormented idiosyncrasy of the character and his laughter is so unique and unforgettable (did I mention it is quite spooky too?!).
Favourite quote: “Listen to them: the children of the night. What sweet music they make.“
- Sadie Frost as Lucy is fantastic and radiant. We meet her as an enthusiastic, playful and childish young lady and later on we witness her while she transforms into a vampire bride, so sexual and ruthless that captivates our attention. The scene in the cemetary where she eventually faces her true death (someone has been watching “True Blood” …) is a beautifully crafted portrayal of the seductive powers she possesses.
Favourite quote: “Come to me, Arthur. Leave these others and come to me. My arms are hungry for you, my darling.” (note: her British accent makes all the difference)
- Anthony Hopkins chooses to become a Prof. Van Helsing far more weird and complex than its previous, most notable and consequential version of Peter Cushing in Dracula (1958) (and in the long series of pointless films that followed the success of the original). Small details, for instance initiating dance with Mina (and smelling her for no apparent reason), the way he scratches his forehead over dinner with the newlyweds, the way he holds the fork, his frantic excitement and huge appetite even during the darkest times make the character unique and slightly mad.
Favourite quote: “Civilization and siphilisation have advanced together“.
- Renouncing God in Romanian.
- Dracula shaves Jonathan (and unfortunately doesn’t cut his throat to save us from the torment of watching him try for the next hour...)
- Count’s gift to his brides in the presence of a shocked Jonathan (or so he tried to look but miserably failed..again..).
- Dracula rapes and feeds from Lucy in the garden.
- The Count, Mina and the wolf.
- Lucy’s death
The set is simple but the impeccable costumes created by Eiko Ishioka that fairly won her the Academy Award for Costume Design in 1993 are the true set of the film, according to the director that deliberately invested the film’s budget on them. The Victorian suits and dresses and the Count’s signature blue sunglasses place the film to the most defining styling references of the 90’s in film. In fact, a pair of red-lensed similar sunglasses made an appearance at the A/W Prada Menswear show in 2012 in Gary Oldman ‘s breast pocket!!
The following documentary explains the importance of costumes in the film, as they functioned as a crucial storytelling medium.
The film is rich, romantic and intimidating. I am obviously biased, as I find the myth of the Dracula fascinating and extremely tragic, and not at all scary. The portrayal of Dracula has remained for years separate from the eroticism that is planted in the story’s very core; what else can be considered as a romantic gesture if not that of a man that inflicts himself with “living death” and patiently waits for the moment when he shall be reunited with his one true love? It was Christopher’s Lee performance in 1958’s Dracula that first resurfaced the sexuality of the character. Oldman’s performance took it a step forward thanks to the script that provided various scenes of seduction that included both romantic promises of eternal love to Mina and raw sexual liberation during (and afterwards…) the encounters with his victim, Lucy. Only two years later comes Interview with a Vampire (1994) to further enhance vampire sexuality by exploring the complicated and toxic relationship between homosexual companions Louis (Brad Pitt) and Lestat (Tom Cruise). Those films can be considered the predecessors of the most recent films and tv series that have established vampires as sex symbols in popular culture.