Say what you will about Keanu Reeves’ horrid English accent in this film, I like this film. I love the cast, and I like the way the text has been updated to make Dracula not only a tragic character, more or less, but weave this wonderful love story through the film. I was happy to see it appear on the list of the 101 Horror Movies.
James V. Hart adapted Stoker’s original novel, published in 1897, and by introducing the love story into it, gives a better motivation for Dracula’s coming to England than the source material.
Directed by legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, whether you like the film or not, it is a wonder to behold in terms of its special effects. Eschewing burgeoning CGI, or rotoscoping, Coppola insisted on only using special effect techniques that would have been used by filmmakers at the turn of the 20th century.
There is massive use of miniatures, double exposures, on-screen projection, paintings, forced perspective, running the film backwards, all of them are in-camera effects, and they add a reality to the film that is missing from a lot of the cgi creations in the films of today.
The modern man of a thousand faces, Gary Oldman, takes on the lead role of Dracula, infusing him with anger, loneliness and love. Oldman is a fantastic actor, and has proven it in every single role he’s played, he loses himself in each and every role, burying himself until you only see the character. He’s amazing.
Leading the forces of light is Van Helsing (played by Anthony Hopkins – fresh from his award winning performance in Silence of the Lambs (he also plays the priest at the beginning of the film when Dracula damsn himself, god, and the church)).
The cast is filled with recognizable faces and names, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Cary Elwes, Bill Campbell, Sadie Frost, Richard E. Grant, Tom Waits, and a blink and you miss her, Monica Bellucci (sigh) as one of Dracula’s Brides.
After discovering the image of Mina (Ryder) amongst Harker’s (Reeves) possessions, Dracula (Oldman) travels to England. He recognizes in Mina his late wife Elisabeta, who took her own life, when she was informed (by his enemies) of Dracula’s death during the crusades. Dracula now seeks her out, seeing in her the chance to love and perhaps be redeemed.
The film is a lush, gorgeous production, and apart from the Lugosi version of the tale is probably my favorite retelling of the classic.
The soundtrack is amazing, not just the music, which is imposing, dark, and a little terrifying, by Wojciech Kilar, but also the sound itself, there are whispers woven throughout the soundtrack, backwards dialogue as Lucy writhes under Dracula’s thrall.
The score and the sound, for me, reaches its peak with tje scene where Helsing lights a circle of flame around him, and is stalked by the three brides. I had the soundtrack, and I could barely listen to that track, it honestly freaked me out. I guess it comes as no surprise then that the film won Best Sound Effects Editing.
Also of note are the incredible costumes, yes, even including Dracula’s kimono-esque outfit by Eiko Ishioka, who won an Academy Award for her work in the film.
Also wonderful on display is the make-up work which took the film’s third Oscar.
Of all the roles in the film, I think I enjoy Hopkins’ slightly unhinged Van Helsing, and Elwes’ Arthur Holmwood most of all. Hopkins seems quite happy to chew the scenery bringing an almost melo-dramatic operatic level to his performance.
Its a fun take on the most popular vampire story ever told, and a top-notch cast and director enjoying the work they are doing.
What did you think of it? Who’s your favorite Dracula?