Thursday, 10 March 2016

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

"See the amazing cinematograph- the wonder of modern civilisation."

Francis Ford Coppola gives us a lush, gorgeous Dracula. While the film doesn't entirely work- it's bloated and over-detailed- I'd actually blame the source material rather than this excellently made film which, in spite of what is often said and in spite of some obvious and welcome homages to James Whale's 1931 film, is if anything a little too faithful to the novel.

The casting is full of big names, although an oddity is that very few of the big names are using their own native accents in one way or another. Gary Oldman is a splendid Dracula, while Winona Ryder- who, it being the early '90s, had to appear in this film- is well cast as the sexually repressed and innocent Mina, whose repressed desires are soon teased out. Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker is, as ever, Ted, while Anthony Hopkins is a convincing and amusing Van Helsing.

The film makes explicit what is implicit in the novel: it's all a metaphor for sex and sexuality, as numerous scenes make clear with vampirism always portrayed in an obviously sexualised manner. Another nice touch is that all narration us epistolary in nature, paralleling the firm and structure of Stoker's novel. But Coppola also adds a prologue in which Vlad the Impaler turns against God and (in a process not entirely clear) towards vampirism after the Juliet-like suicide of his wife, who thought him dead. In lesser hands this would have been corny and embarrassing, but Coppola makes it work.

The direction is beautiful: I love the change in texture and camerawork during the cinematograph scenes. The only real criticism I can find is Richard E. grant phoning in his performance; the film is beautifully made and bloated only because Coppola is clearly such a huge Dracula fanboy, something I'm well prepared to indulge.

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