Bram Stoker's Dracula
bram stoker's dracula | dracula | vampire | francis ford coppola | bram stoker | james v. hart | gary oldman | winona ryder | anthony hopkins | romance | united states | based on | novel | vampires | keanu reeves | richard e. grant | cary elwes | billy campbell
Film: Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writer: James V. Hart
Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder and Anthony Hopkins
This was a film that I remember coming out when I was growing up. It was interesting to me, because I really didn’t understand the implications of it with the director Francis Ford Coppola. I just recall it being highly talked about and it took me until after college to finally see it. The synopsis is the centuries old vampire Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) comes to England to seduce his barrister Jonathan Harker’s (Keanu Reeves) fiancée Mina Murray (Winona Ryder) and inflicts havoc in the foreign land.
We start in 1496. The Christian world is trying to hold back the Turks who are attacking from the Middle East. A prince from Transylvania is leading an army to stop them, Count Dracula. His fiancée, Elisabeta (Ryder) doesn’t want him to go. Dracula is a fierce warrior and he’s ruthless. His army defeats the Turks and they impale many of the soliders, but a ruse is used to get back at him. They tell Elisbeta that Dracula died in battle. She kills herself and this causes Dracula to curse God. In return, he is cursed to being a vampire and to walk Earth for eternity, drinking blood and living in the dark.
It then jumps to the late 1897. We have a young solicitor who is trying to move up in his company Jonathan. He’s taking over an account in Transylvania for a rich count as his predecessor R.M. Renfield (Tom Waits) has went crazy and now in an asylum. Jonathan is engaged to Mina and they are to be married when he returns.
While he’s gone, Mina goes to visit her friend Lucy Westenra (Sadie Frost). She has quite a dirty mind and mouth. She is rich, but she is concerned she’s not married yet. She doesn’t lack for suitors though. There’s a doctor at the nearby asylum Jack Seward (Richard E. Grant), Lord Arthur Holmwood (Cary Elwes) and a Texan Quincey P. Morris (Billy Campbell).
Jonathan makes his way to the castle where Dracula lives and it is an interesting journey. He arrives to meet the count. He is very old and they go about their business. Dracula sees who Reeves’ fiancée is and she looks just like his long lost love. Dracula has bought a bunch of property around London. He also requires Jonathan to stay at his castle for a month.
He is told to stay in his room, but Jonathan knows something isn’t right. He stumbles upon three brides of Dracula, one of which is Monica Bellucci, who seduce him. Dracula wards them off, but he soon leaves for London. He is out to get his love back, but this beast also has other carnal desires to attend to. When Lucy becomes ill, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) is called in.
I want to start off saying that Coppola did an excellent job on this film. He stays faithful to the book and then added some elements like a deeper backstory for Dracula’s character. This is a horror film, but it also has some good elements of surrealism and romance. To be honest, it is more a tragic love story of Dracula losing his bride and trying to get her back, but with the backdrop of a vampire tale.
Going from this though, there is the interesting aspect of Dracula being as bestial as a vampire. I do like the idea they modeled him after a bat. I almost wish they wouldn’t have gone as animalistic as they do. I also feel like this is more of an allegory for lust and carnal pleasure. Something to go along with this is Lucy. She has a foul mouth, but the night she is seduced by Dracula, she is wearing a red nightgown. I definitely think this was on purpose with red being the color of passion. This is also seen in the change of Mina as well.
There’s another aspect here of science versus religion. Dr. Seward is trying to understand what is happening to Lucy. He can’t figure it out and he fears for her life. Van Helsing is called in and learns quickly what is happening. Van Helsing is a teacher of medical sciences, but he still believes in religion. I found this quite interesting. We also know that religious artifacts help to ward off vampire so there’s an interesting duality.
I know I’ve praised Coppola for sticking as close to the novel as he did. I do have to say that I think this hurts the pacing a bit to be honest. There is just so much that the film does get bogged down just a tad. I think that it is still edited together in way that it built tension. There are also some really good edits that take one scene into the next that are really well done. There were a few though that I wasn’t a fan of as well that came off as cheesy. I do like the ending though of the film.
To the acting of the film, it is great. Oldman is truly a treasure. I love how we get three versions of Dracula. The one in the past is quite tragic. The elder one also seems very similar to the first, but just able to convey the age and wisdom. The final one is the one that seduces Mina. He has good parts of arrogant, along with being sad. He did a great job. I thought Ryder was solid in her role. Hopkins is much like Oldman, always great. He does play this role a bit too eccentric for my taste. I like Reeves, but I think he doesn’t fit in this film unfortunately. He would be the only negative I have. I thought the rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed.
Effects of the film were also really good. I had it in my head they used a lot of CGI, but after this viewing, they really didn’t. The film really was done practically for the most part. I have to commend them that they used some cuts and camera effects to get away with things, like Dracula transforming into things. I’m not the biggest fan of his look, but it doesn’t ruin anything. Overall I’d say the effects are solid and I think the film is shot beautifully.
Now with that said, I would highly recommend this one, if you’re a horror film fan or even just a fan of good acting. The story is deep and complex, the acting coupled with that makes it very amazing. I do think there is a bit of a pacing issue with the length of the film as well as some of the transitions not really working for me. The effects are very well done and the it is shot beautifully. The soundtrack fits to what they needed and were going for. I would say that this one is definitely worth a viewing at least once and I don’t think you’d be disappointed. I find this to be a great movie in my opinion and one of the best adaptations of the source material.
My Rating: 9.5 out of 10