1Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010.
The other characters in the novel follow suit. All of them refer to each other with prefixes, either Doctor, Mister or Misses. Dracula lacks such polite and cultural distinction. Further Bram Stoker gives all the main characters a first name - Dr. John Seward, Mr. Quincey P. Morris, Honourable Arthur Holmwood, Mina Murray, Lucy Westenra, Professor Abraham Van Helsing and Jonathan Harker. Even some minor personages have first names – Samuel F. Billington, Patrick Hennessey. Dracula is the only main character that is missing a first name. He is either referred to as The Count, Dracula, or different animal. Thus the author takes away one of the most personable element a human being can have, their first name. This dehumanization goes beyond the characters. The author, Bram Stoker sees Dracula not only as the antagonist in the novel, but he portrays him as a creature. A brutal, heartless being that can take many different shapes and forms,
“he is of cunning more than mortal, for his cunning be the growth of ages; he have still the aids of necromancy, which is, as his etymology imply, the divination by the dead, and all the dead that he can come nigh to are for him at command; he is brute, and more than brute; he is devil in callous, and the heart of him is not; he can, within limitations, appear at will when, and where, and in any of the forms that are to him; he can, within his range, direct the elements; the storm, the fog, the thunder; he can command all the meaner things: the rat, and the owl, and the bat—the moth, and the fox, and the wolf; he can grow and become small; and he can at times vanish and come unknown.”14
It should be no surprise that The Count lacks a voice. He is a creature, and like many animals, who sleeps in the dirt and act instinctually, he does not have a story to tell.
The film Bram Stoker's Dracula reverses this tendency.15 To increase believability, the director Francis Ford Coppola, and the writer of the screenplay, James V. Hart, use the same technique which Bram Stoker uses. They root the film in reality, but they base it on the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler. From the very beginning of the film it is clear who the main character is. The voiceover can be a little misleading because Van Helsing narrates the story, but since we don't see him, we can not associate the story with him. The voiceover seems to be coming from independent, omniscient narrator. The voiceover of Van Helsing resumes again 47 minutes later, with the emergence of the Demeter, but around that time we have forgotten all about the narration of the first scene. The first human beings we see are Count Dracula and his beloved Elisabeta. The suicide of Elisabeta and the return of the Count to the chapel is reminiscent of the tragic ending of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It's important to notice that the Count becomes Dracula, by drinking the blood of Christ. By doing so, “real” life is taken away from him and he is condemned to a lifeless body and lonely existence. He is not a bloodthirsty vampire when we meet him, but a man renouncing God, because he lost the love of his life. With this introduction to the story we know that this is going to be a love story of epic proportions.
The film jumps four centuries later and we meet Renfield, confined to a lunatic asylum and talking to himself. However, Renfield is talking to his “Master” (Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992) about everlasting life, thus solidifying Dracula as the main protagonist of the story. With this sequence the real story begins, but since the script writer and the director have established Dracula not only as a human being but as the protagonist of the story, we know we are going to see his side of the story. However, to understand his story we need to recognize his connection to the love of his life, Mina. The narrative structure does exactly that and further connects The Prince and Mina. The first line of dialogue she says is “We've waited this long, haven't we?” (Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992). Even though she is talking to Jonathan, it seems she is referring directly to “oceans of time”(Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992) that Dracula has waited for her.
Both characters are further entwined while Jonathan is reading the letter from Dracula welcoming him to Transylvania, Mina is writing in her diary expressing desires to travel to foreign lands. After the real estate deal is closed Jonathan inquires why Dracula has bought ten houses in London. Dracula could have bought properties of different kinds or could have purchased land, but he buys houses. The house is a symbol of domesticity, settling down and love. The Count answers Jonathan's question with a question “Do you believe in destiny?” (Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992). He just saw Mina's photograph. What follows is the strangest of Jonathan's lines. He says “You found Mina. I thought she was lost” (Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992). It is uncharacteristic of Jonathan to say this, and the sentence does not make sense, because Mina is not lost to him. If you connect this sentence with the Dracula's believe of true love “The luckies man who walks on this Earth is the one who finds true love,” (Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992) Jonathan's line makes complete sense, because it connects Mina and The Count. Thus it seems that Jonathan is the bridge between the separated lovers. This point is developed earlier in the film. The first time we see Jonathan is in his office, accepting the assignment to go to Transylvania. He is seated with his back towards us and far away. When we meet Dracula, it is in close up as he is kissing Elisabetta. Photographically, it is the exact opposite of Jonathan's introduction. This technique eliminates the possibility of Jonathan becoming the principle personage and solidifies my point that the film is showing us Dracula's rendering of the story.
Another device the film uses to show Dracula's perspective is the cinematography; primarily the use of shadows. The first time Dracula sees Mina's picture is right after he had signed the real estate papers. Jonathan explains that he and Mina are to be married as soon as he returns back to London. During that exchange the Count's shadow slowly engulfs his throat, as if to choke him. Dracula's shadow further grows at the end of the same scene, after he tells Jonathan that he wants him to stay for a month. This time the shadow engulfs the whole map of London, and the space behind Jonathan becomes black. Dracula has taken over their world.
The technique is chosen again when Lucy is flirting with her three suitors, and Mina comments that she wants to be “adored as she[Lucy]”(Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992). The Count's shadow overtakes the frame and falls on Mina, showing her that she is desired and adored and showing us Dracula's intentions.
When Dracula arrives in London and walks the streets during the day, the footage is jumpy and uneven. I'm assuming those shots were filmed at the silent speed; 16 frames per second (16fps). This films speed is characteristic of the late 19 century films, but also has an association with Dracula's experience. As a newcomer to the western world, he observes many different things, which are then indelibly placed in his memory like snapshots. The footage adjusts to regular speed, 24 frames per second (24fps) when the Count sees Mina. He has found the reason and purpose of his trip to London; thus the film reverts to normal.
The uneven footage of 16 frames per second (16fps) links to the Count's desire to see the cinematograph; images of people on a blank screen. Twice in the film, we are shown that he does not have a reflection. Once when Jonathan shaves and again when The Count buys a newspaper on the streets of London and waits for Mina to exit the perfume shop. It seems Dracula's desire to see the newest scientific invention reflects his desire to fit in society and to live a normal life.
Another device the film uses to express Dracula's feelings and thoughts is the editing. The editors Anne Goursaud, Glen Scantlebury and Nicolas C. Smith, use superimposition to show what Dracula is feeling and to connect him to Mina. This elegant way of showing his thoughts is evident in several scenes. During the battle scene, at the beginning of the film, after The Count is victorious he “sees” Elisabeta. The superimposition occurs again when Mina talks about Transylvania and Dracula is recounting his princess dying. After Mina drinks his blood, she can “hear” his voice. She is laying in bed saying “he speaks to me” (Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992), while we see Dracula's younger reflection staying close to her bed. Lastly, Mina's image is superimposed on the crate of dirt, where Dracula is sleeping while traveling back to Transylvania. Mina and The Count are the only ones “connected” through this cinematic technique, and rightfully so, because Dracula is the only one she calls “my love” (Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992).
This epic and romantic film commences in the same place where it began – in the Chapel. The chapel seems to be their “home.” Only here where God “resides,” will their love be immortalized. In a reverse of fairy tale style, Mina, the princess of death or the bride of Dracula, kisses and kills the Beast, thus releasing him from his curse. The wound on the cross heals, and both of them can live together in the heavens above where “love is stronger than death” (Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992).
1Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010, p.2.
2Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.1.
3Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.3.
4Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.8.
5Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.11.
6Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.9.
7Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.19.
8Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.53.
9Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.155.
10Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.155.
11Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.156.
12Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.186.
13Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.243.
14Stoker, Bram. Dracula.Sterling Children's Books, 2010,p.252.
15Bram Stoker's Dracula.Directed by Francis Ford Coppola,performances by Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Columbia Pictures, 1992,DVD.
5 / 5
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Staring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves