Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

Bram Stoker's Dracula - or not, as the case may be

Having seen it in English, we've got to write an essay on it and I thought I'd get my thoughts down. Now I'm issuing a spoiler warning for anyone not familiar with the plot...

My main complaint was the excess. Dracula is such a fab read because of the atmosphere. One section takes place in Whitby - foggy clifftops, crumbling chapel, a seat overlooking the sea placed beside the broken grave of a suicide, dim ship bells distantly ringing...with a bad guy who can control storms and turn himself into mist, there's a reason why so much time is lavished on the background details. The very weather is conspiring against them. It's so vivid in the novel, so why they went for bright colours and studio sets over muted pastels and quiet winds I don't know. Production design does mean a lot to me, and this is definitely a novel to do with a colour scheme. Big complaint number one. SET IT IN WHITBY DAMMIT!

And the sex. Well yes, its a pretty steamy read if you think about it hard enough - but the point is, you do have to think to notice it. Everything is implied. This film's about as subtle as a Britney Spears vid. You think people would have cottoned on by now that guys in hairy suits doesn't scare anyone. I'd have aimed at Picnic at Hanging Rock style terror, and toned some bits down. My particular problem was with the first scene when Lucy's attacked. The extent to which vampirism is a metaphor for sex is debatable. It's good they picked up on the hints and made it more than a monster movie. But they went a bit too far...because the thing that really scared the Victorians were their hidden desires. The danger of vampires is you want them to attack you, even though you know you shouldn't. I assure you there was nothing hidden whatsoever in this. Big complaint number two. KEEP IT SUBTLE AND SCARY

Other problems. Ah yes. Lucy...perhaps this looks picky to you, but she was all wrong. a) she was ginger. The novel goes on and on about the colours black, white and red. I can't verify for sure what colour her hair was, but I'd have gone with black. But my big complaint was her personality. In the novel she's always a bit coquettish, but in a sweet way. She cries when she has to turn down proposals, and only turns siren when she vamps out later on. In the film, there's no effect caused by her empassioned "my arms are hungry for you..." because that's what she's been like all along. What the film needed was an actress a bit more like...well, yes actually, more like Winona Ryder.

Because the gooey eyed, sweet and beautiful performance she turns in this film as the innocent Mina, hopelessly in love with Johnathan, is spot on for Lucy. Mina in the book is a school teacher who is learning shorthand so she can read her husband's notes, and the typewriter so she can type them up for him. She does love Johnathan, but not in the same passionate way as Lucy loves Arthur. Mina is a cypher for all that is dull and respectable i.e. all those good, womanly qualities celebrated in Victorian England. I can see why she would be attracted to Dracula...can't see at all why Dracula would be attracted to her.

There's a line in the book I adore; they keep it in the film. Dracula says out of the blue "Yes, I too can love..." It's not expanded on at all, and it doesn't really need to be. It's a novel with a lot of different things going on, and barely enough time to do any of them - why the love story then? It's one thing for Dracula to pick Mina up to irritate the vampire hunters and call her "my companion", recalling his other companions back at the castle, the three vampire brides; it's another thing to pick up on that one line and blow it out of all proportion.

If you squint at the book and the film carefully enough, then yes the adaption is pretty faithful. You see Mina destroy the pages of the diary which detail her meetings with Dracula, explaining why they're not in the book. After she vamps out, they appear to have a mind-link of sorts - which they could have had to begin with. And there's no reason why that backstory might not be the case. But there's no reason why it should be either.

Problems with Dracula...hmmm, well I could mumble that just because he looks younger doesn't make him look that much younger, but as it's Gary Oldman I'm not complaining. Basically, nowhere in the book does it say Dracula is that hot. He's a lovesick sweetie in this, and I especially liked the moment when he gives Mina a really warm hug...I do have issues with it. You can't have it both ways - either he's a monster who viciously attacks Lucy with blood spurting everywhere, or he's a sensitive and heartbroken anti-hero.
Some schools of thought (i.e. my English teacher) think Dracula is the hero of the novel. Debatable...I disagree, personally. It's only years of romanticised films such as this which give the impression. If you just read the book without any awareness of Dracula whatsoever, I bet you wouldn't think that. Ok, the heroes are irritatingly pure saps, but Dracula isn't any more exciting. It's like the old question of: does Adolf Hitler look evil because he actually looks evil, or because we know he's a bad person? If you grew up in a cultural vaccum, would he still seem sinister? Is Dracula only percieved as a good guy due to years of adaptions like this?

They make the wrong cuts. I'm not saying you shouldn't change a book when you adapt it - you have to change some things. I quite liked the idea that Renfield had gone to Transylvania first, for example. But I'd have gone for different things. I'd definitely have cut Quincey, because he's basically a useless character. He does nothing that couldn't be accomplished by the others. I'd have cut Renfield down to an ominous voice. And here's a novel idea - the film starts with Harker in Transylvania. Why?! What purpose does it serve? It's as pointless as the World Quiddich match in Goblet of Fire - only there, because it's in the book. I'd start it in Whitby and make Mina my heroine. Now that would mean cutting some great stuff, but it would solve the problem of the book's juddery narrative arc. Harker in Transylvania. Change gear, different characters entirely. Mina in Whitby. Change again - Lucy and Van Helsing. Harker really doesn't do anything either when he comes back from Transylvania. And how convenient is it that of all the people to pick on, Dracula would so happen upon Mina and Lucy? My way doesn't draw so much attention to the coincidence of Victorian novels (though arguably, this film solves the problem a different way). And it slightly dampens the audience's preknowledge of what's going on. It's infuriating reading chapter after chapter of doctors puzzling over symptoms, waiting for them to realise the patient's been got by a vampire.

Moving away from the plot for a bit, the whole film looked horrible. The editing was naff, the prologue fight sequences messy, all the overlaying one thing with another got tedious very quickly. It had no style whatsoever. I liked some of the girl's costumes, though Lucy's red thing was nasty. And Dracula's red cape was waaay too long, but pretty cool (you may, at this point, quote the Incredibles. There is no practical use in a cloak that flows 2m behind you.)

Ooooooooh - one thing I did like was the shadow effects with Dracula. When his shadow was behaving entirely independantly. And Monica Belluci was...good...

I think it's a matter of taste and wishful thinking. If you, like my English teacher, have decided to sympathise with Dracula and you pointedly overlook the line "his face was not a good face, cruel and hard", and interpret the line "It's the Count! Only younger!" as "it's the Count! Only hotter!" then you'll think it's great. Unlike the novel, here Dracula is in every second scene and he looks totally fantastic. If you overlook the fact that the heroes are irritating saints, and see Dracula as the bad guy, then I'd give this a miss. And if you've never read the book, then who knows?!
By the by, I thought Mr Reeves was GREAT. Seriosuly. His one-note, dull performance was spot on for the very square and very dull Harker. He looked the role well too.
Final analysis: needed to be a bit more like Picnic at Hanging Rock, and a bit less like the Mummy. And even the Mummy had a nice colour scheme...

Cross posted to my English teacher! OK, so that's not precicely what I'm going to hand in, but something like.
I've done such a lot and not told you. I've seen Aliens (better than the original, scarier and more exciting) and Starship Troopers (Dad's favourite joke movie*. I can't make my mind up whether it's a dum action movie or a very very intelligent political satire. I suppose, somewhere in between.).
I saw YET ANOTHER HEIST MOVIE, Inside Man, which my dad totally raves about but which I thought was a bit dull. The best films with a twist are those in which they tell you everything. The Sixth Sense tells you exactly what's going on from the start, and it's up to your own intelligence whether you spot it or not. Inside Man is only "clever" because it covers things up. The robbers were irritatingly smug. I thought the comment about Dog Day Afternoon was very well placed. And I did like the use of Chaiya Chaiya for the theme. It was charmingly random.
I also discovered Woody Allen. Dad aquired the boxed set. Bananas and Love and Death so far. No enthusiam to say any more than I liked them.
And we saw Casino Royale at the cinema. It was good - though I'm pretty sure they only just squeaked into a 12A rating. There was an attempt at interesting editing and cinematography, the script had some great moments ("Vodka martini." "Shaken or stirred?" "Does it look like I care?!). Dad and I sniggered when he was chasing the woman in the red coat through Venice. Nobody else noticed the Don't Look Now joke. And my sister threw us an ugly look...oops...
Anyway, off now. Friend 1 and I are embarking on a heroic quest to discover what is the foulest of most foul words...
*Joke movie- translates: everyone has one slightly silly movie they like just like, well aware that it's not fine art. They're usually a) very 80s b) slightly childish and c) a bit naff. aka Lost Boys, Top Gun, Dirty Dancing, Evil Dead II, The Princess Bride, Waynes World, Flash Gordon, Star Wars even to an extent. Amongst my 16yrold friends, the usual equivalent is Finding Nemo or Happy Feet. Anyway, there's always one on a top ten list...


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