Cert: 18 Runtime: 128 mins Director: Francis Ford Coppola Cast: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Richard E. Grant, Sadie Frost, Cary Elwes, Billy Campbell and Anthony Hopkins
I have crossed oceans of time to find you
Recently I have been watching a lot of Gary Oldman films, for me he is one of the greats. A very versatile man who can disappear into any character and bring him to life. This month I am dedicating the site to him, first film under the microscope is Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Back before the release of the film in 1992 it was expected to be a masterpiece of cinema. It didn’t pan out to be what the world wanted it to be, but it did receive positive reviews and did well in the box office. For me it’s one of my favorite films of all time. So what is Dracula? his version of Dracula is closely based on Bram Stoker’s classic novel of the same name. A young lawyer (Jonathan Harker) is assigned to a gloomy village in the mists of eastern Europe. He is captured and imprisoned by the undead vampire Dracula (Gary Oldman), who travels to London, inspired by a photograph of Harker’s betrothed, Mina Murray (Winona Ryder). In Britain, Dracula begins a reign of seduction and terror, draining the life from Mina’s closest friend, Lucy Westenra (Sadie Frost). Lucy’s friends gather together to try to drive Dracula away. To start with, Gary Oldman is the personification of the Dracula portrayed in the novel. Apart from looking almost exactly how the centuries-old vampire is described in the novel, his vocal and bodily performance is so unbelievably good that it will leave you transfixed. He wonderfully combines Dracula’s charm, grace, sinister aspects, desire for revenge against God, lust for the women who surround themselves around Johnathan Harker, Van Helsing, Arthur Holmwood and Dr. Seward, and of course his thirst for human blood. He also portrays the lover who has lost his beloved to a remarkably good degree, and his superb acting of the scenes on the bed with Mina Murray brings a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye. It is often said that an actor’s performance is “electric,” but even that isn’t enough to describe the brilliance of Oldman as Dracula. “Stunning,” “wonderful,” or “magnificent” are closer to the mark when describing Oldman’s portrayal. His sinister exclamation of Dracula’s famous quote, “Listen to them, the children of the night, what sweet music they make” is particularly outstanding.
The other characters from the novel – Johnathan Harker (the estate agent who first meets Dracula), Mina Murray (his bride and the object of Dracula’s affections), Lucy Westenra (Mina’s friend), Arthur Holmwood (Lucy’s husband-to-be), Quincey Morris (a Texan), Dr. Seward (a medical man) and Van Helsing (a professor and part-time vampire hunter) – are also brilliantly portrayed and given enough screen time to allow their characters to be developed as much as they need to be. Keanu Reeves is an excellent Johnathan Harker, sufficiently afraid while in Dracula’s castle and determined enough to kill him back in England; Winona Ryder is a fantastic Mina/Elisabeth; Sadie Frost is a superb sweet, naive and flirtatious Lucy; Arthur, Seward and Quincey are portrayed well and make excellent vampire hunters; and Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing is as always magnificent. These characters, and Dracula himself, are portrayed beautifully and accurately in James V. Hart’s stunning script, which adheres quite closely to Stoker’s novel, including extracts from the novel and sufficient explanations to allow those who have not read the novel to understand and follow the plot.The superb direction by Francis Ford Coppola is beyond any faults, and his handling of the bed scenes between Dracula and Mina is enough to bring out all the raw emotions and tears among the audience, let alone between the two characters themselves! The script is pure excellence and the prologue about Vlad the Impaler losing his bride (Elisabeth) after a battle between his people (the Transylvanians) and the Turks, then in his grief denying God’s existence and avenging her death by becoming a vampire (i.e. Dracula) is superb and brings all the beliefs that Dracula was partly inspired by the real Vlad the Impaler bursting into a new light, and makes Dracula a sympathetic and tragic character, instead of the charming but deadly ladies’ man as portrayed by Lee.
The use of Romanian language in the prologue and later in the film adds authenticity to a beautiful and tear-jerking adaptation of the novel.The music is one of the very best as heard in a film, and in places is so utterly fantastic it could almost be an undiscovered Beethoven’s symphony.The scenery and costumes are beyond criticism, and offer a real sense of designed. The make-up of the elderly Dracula is sufficiently corpse-like yet alive enough to suggest quite rightly that Dracula is caught between life and death by his vampire’s existence. The half-man, half-wolf and the half-man, half-bat versions of Dracula are wonderfully created with make-up and special effects (bearing in mind this film was made in 1992) and the death of Dracula at the end (his throat slashed by Johnathan Harker and his heart impaled by Quincey Morris) is beautifully written, acted and directed, and the scene where he reverts back to the young Vlad the Impaler and is finally allowed to die with Mina (the reincarnation of Elisabeth – hence his affections towards her) next to him is so tear-jerkingly wonderful it leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.