As the story follows the journaled entries of Mina and Jonathan respectively, the earlier conflation of Vampire myths with the history of the Christian Crusades deepens the unconcious associations of the monster with the rats who carried the Black Plague into Europe and England. As the ship with the Vampire aboard nears London, Renfield – our liminal character, or to use another metaphor, disease vector- the European dealer in properties (post-feudal, early industrial capitalism) is loudly proclaiming the arrival of the “Master and Lord of all life”, or the Black Plague. It is precisely these layers of meaning within myth and symbols that give texture to this and other films of the Vampire story. And most of these are stripped from the “Twilight” film series and stories.
Francis Coppola and his son Roman Coppola employed numerous in-camera special effects to achieve the disorienting visuals that convey the supernatural atmoshpere of the film. Creaturely and other-worldly howls and whispers intensify the creepy experience of Coppola’s film, winning the film an Oscar for sound effects. The production design, costumes and make-up are splendid and elaborate, and in fact were nominated for and won Academy Awards (respectively). Likewise, the film is cut to perfection with emotional and visual matches that exploit Coppola’s editing instincts. Especially, the cross-cuts between Mina and Jonathon’s wedding and Dracula’s heartbreak and condemnation of Mina’s friend Lucy (Sadie Frost) “…to eternal hunger for living blood” powerfully conflate the Vampire’s curse with the sacrament of communion at the wedding. (These sutured cuts also evoke the brilliant editing of Coppola’s most famous film “The Godfather” in the scenes between the Baptism of Michael Corleone’s nephew and Godson, and Michael’s final destructive vengenace against the Five Families involved in the conspiracy against the Corleone Family.)
Gary Oldman’s performance in the opening scenes is incomparable, but becomes uneven at later points in the story, lapsing into near-campy mannerisms of the cliched Transylvanian defined as much by his accent as his diet and nocturnal nature. More often, though, it’s a powerful performance from one of the greatest actors of our time.
Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, is perhaps more Coppola than Bram Stoker. Though that is not necessarily a bad thing, it is a beautifully made film that for some reason I have not figured out…does not quite reach the promise of its painstaking creation. None-the-less, the elements of sacred and profane that create myth and compel viewers and readers to return to a story are indeed present in this text. I feel all students of cinema should see this move if only for the delightful formal devices and the history of the filmmaker’s art put forth by the Director’s return to in-camera and studio crafted visual effects. I