For nearly twenty years now, Bram Stokers’ Dracula has remained one of my favorite films. I was in high school when it first came out, and it has the distinction of being one of the very few movies that I’ve gone to the theatre to see more than once. It’s a beautiful film, which may seem like an odd thing to say about something that has more than its fair share of blood and the undead. With its underlying story of devoted love, a stunning soundtrack, exquisite costumes and a fantastic portrayal of Dracula though, I stand by the description of “beautiful“. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Cary Elwes, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits and many more, Coppola, the actors and crew were meticulous in bringing their vision of this story to the screen.
Coppola has said that as a child, he loved horror films (especially--no surprise--Dracula), looking up information on Vlad the Impaler in the encyclopedia as a boy, as well as reading Stoker’s novel. As an adult, it bothered him that other film versions of Dracula strayed so far from that story. While Coppola’s film does stay quite true to the book, even including characters that are often left out of other versions, it still takes some liberties and a certain degree of creative license. Instead of following the standard mindless monster formula of other films though, Coppola’s version begins by building a back story that not only explains the dynamic between Dracula (Gary Oldman) and Elisabeta/Mina (Winona Ryder), but allows the audience to understand his evolution. I won’t be a spoiler, but in one of the most dramatic scenes in the beginning of the film, a crucial event causes a once devout Dracula to denounce God and transform into the soulless being that many other movies have made into a one dimensional stereotype. It’s a pivotal scene; the audience can sympathize. Dracula has been devoted to doing what he thinks is right, but then is grief-stricken and enraged when he feels betrayed and forsaken by God. My apologies to Bela Lugosi, but Oldman’s portrayal of Dracula is my favorite of all that I’ve seen; he brought new depth and dimension to the character. It’s that move towards showing Dracula as a complex being that’s captivated me since the first time I saw the film.
|Dracula (Gary Oldman) and Elisabeta (Winona Ryder)|
|Dracula and Mina|
Yet flaws be damned and for all the time that's passed, I haven't "grown out" of my love for the film, even decades later. I hope that I never do.