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Decoding Dracula

FrancisFordCoppola
reflectsonhisrevampof
Gothicnovel,Draculafor
modernfilmaudiences.
ByEmmaWhittle

intimacyandhighangleshotsconveyisolation
andloneliness.
Iborrowfromcinematichistory,recreatingthe
visualeffectsusedbyearlyfilmmakersfor
authenticity.Theincameratechniquessuchas
doubleexposureandfrontprojectioncreate
scenesliketheonewherethetrainmovesacross
thediarypagestoachieveaGothiceerieeffect.

Coppolaisstillcomingtotermswiththe
extraordinarypressuresoffilmingacenturyold
icon.HediscoveredBramStokers1897novel
whenhewasjustsevenandthestoryfascinated
himfromtheveryfirstpage.Heisnotalone!
Draculahascaptivatedaudiencesthroughout
time.

Givemesomethingfromyour
ownnightmares.

Likemostofus,IlovetheideaofaDracula
remake.Whycreatenewvampireswhenyou
canreinventthefascinatingoriginal?
Nevertheless,itisachallengetoconnectGothic
textandfeaturestoacinematicworkrelevantto
modernaudiences.
Coppolareflectsonhowhetunesinto
contemporaryexpectationsandstaysloyaltothe
novelsGothicrootsusingfilmtechniques,set
designandcreativereimaginingofthetext.

Puppetryanddarksilhouettingagainstanorange
backgroundintheopeningbattlemontageadda
senseofGothicfantasy.
Ialsocollaboratedwiththeyoungcastfor
uniqueproductionideas.IusedtosayGiveme
somethingfromyourownnightmares.Wewere
alwayslookingforinventivewaystoillustrate
thegrotesque,thedisturbingandthe
unpredictable.Theextensiveuseofshadows
movingindependentlyofthecharactersisone
wayweachievethisandbuildsuspense.

Whatfilmtechniquesdoyoudrawonto
developthevisualstrategy,somodern
audiencescanidentifywiththeGothic
elementsandthemes?
Literatureindicatesperception,however,infilm
weexperienceitfirsthandasthecameracan
eitherenhanceorrestrictvision.Artisticdevices
thatalloworobscurevisionassistintranslating
theGothicnoveltoscreen.
Wedeliverthedarknessofnightusingshadows,
lightingandmist.Closeupshotshighlight

Wealsoreplicatetheactualtextfromthenovel
intosubtlevisualimages.Anexampleofthisis

thewhitemistwhichmoveswithalifeofits
ownwhenMinatransformsintoavampire.
Additionally,metonymyconveystheGothic
literatureillustrationofhumannatureasamix
ofgoodandevil.Gustsofwindreflectturmoil
inacharacter'smindorsignifysomethingbadto
occur.Theuseofmoonlightandcandles
illustratelightanddarkinconflict.Draculas
transformationsreflecthisdescenttothelevelof
ananimalandalsoreinforcethedualityofhis
personality.
HowdoyouapproachtheGothicthemesof
sexualityandreligionwithrelevanceto
modernviewers?
Therecognitionoftheaudienceispartofthe
filmmakingprocess.Whenyoumakeamovie,
itsforthem.Withthisinmindwechosetotake
amoreliberalapproachtofemalesexualityand
religion.
Thereisnodoubtthisisanexplicitlyeroticfilm
thatwouldnothavebeenacceptableinGothic
society.Havingsaidthat,Stokerhimself
portrayedDraculaasaverysexualcreatureand
challengedVictorianattitudestowardsfemale
sexualexpression.

Itwasalsoourintenttohighlightthedarkside
ofhumannatureanddestructivedesires,for
example,MinaisrepulsedbyDraculabut
desireshim.Herdisplaysofovertsexuality
illustratethis.
Additionally,genderrolesplayadifferentrole
insocietytoday.Thethreatoffemalesexual
expression,acommonthemeinGothic
literature,islaughabletoday.Soweupdated
bothMinaandLucysoutlookonsexuality.We
useimagerysuchasbooksofasexualnature
andsexualinnuendosinthedialoguetoachieve
thismoremodernapproach.

Therecognitionoftheaudienceis
partofthefilmmakingprocess.When
youmakeamovie,itsforthem.
Religionalsoplayedadifferentroleinthe
Victorianera.Nowadaystherearemany
differentinterpretationsofreligion.Weare
increasinglyskepticalofreligion.Thefilm
relaxesreligiousmoralsandprovidesDracula
withthepromiseofChristiansalvation.This
translatestoamorerelevantapproachforthe
modernaudience.
HowdoyoutranslatetheGothicfiction
elementstofilm?
Weusevisualimageryincludingsettingand
costumedesigntoconveymoodandatmosphere
sothemindsoftheaudiencejourneybacktothat
timeandplace.

Wealsoencouragethemindsoftheaudience
intodepravity.Ithinktherecurringthemeof
sexualperversionthroughtheofferingofan
infantandthebrutalsexualitybetweenDracula
andLucyresultsinamorecontroversialand
memorablefilm.

Thesinisterstreetsandharsharchitecturallines
ofLondonparallelthegloomy,decayingcastle
withitscryptsandcorridors.Darkforestsand
wildlandscapesaddtothehauntingmelancholy
effect.Thecostumesareexoticandfantastical
liketheliteratureitself.
Additionally,weuseproductiondesign,colour
andmotifstoportraytheGothicelements.The
useofcolourslikeredandblackembodyGothic

horror,evil,darkromanticism,sexualdesireand
passion.Thiscapturesthenovelsspirit.
Motifshelpdevelopthegothicthemes.Blood
dominatesfromtheoutset.Draculastabsthe
crucifixanditbleeds.Bloodthengushesfrom
othersacredobjectsinthechurch.Closeup
shotsofbloodcellsunderamicroscopeand
Lucysbloodtransfusionsaddtothehighdrama,
evokinghorroranddread.
Wealsousemotifslikereligiousiconsand
symbolsoftechnologyfromtheGothicera
itself,includingatypewriterandcinematograph.
Thisconnectstheaudiencetothepastand
illustratesthatmodernknowledgereplaces
antiquatedsuperstitionandfears.
Lastly,wepresentthefilmintrueGothicstyle
usingspiralnarrativestructure,asifitwerea
privatediary.EntriesreadbyMinaandJonathon
earlyinthefilmhelptheviewerunderstandthe
earlystages,beforeProfessorVanHelsingtakes
overasmainnarratorrevealingforbiddensecrets
andantidotes.
Whatwasyourmainprincipleinadapting
theGothicmasterpiecetothebigscreen?
Mostofusalreadyknowthestoryandnoone
wantstoseeittransferredwordforwordtothe

screen.Thewholepointoffilmadaptionisto
createanewtakeontheoriginal.Tobuild
appealacrossawideraudienceweplacea
spotlightonthelovestory.Wealsoincorporate
apieceofactualhistoryintotheremake.
ThereimaginingofDraculaasatormented
romanticantiherositswellwithmodernculture
andaudiences.Heischarmingaswellasevil,
someonecapableoflove,ratherthanamonster
andsomethingtobefeared.Thiscreates
empathysoaudiencescanconnecttohimona
humanlevel.
Itwasimpossibleformetoresistthetemptation
toincorporateVladtheImpalerintotheplot.
WhenIwasyoung,Iwasdelightedtodiscover
inanencyclopedia,thatDraculawasbasedona
realguy.Itgivescredibilitytotheideathatthere
isareallegendsurroundingvampires.

AsCoppolaleansbackfinishinghislast
sentence,IcontemplatetheideathatthisGothic
taleisdestinedtobecontinuallyrenovatedto
suitthedesiresandfearsofchangingsociety.
PerhapsthisiswhyDraculaisimmortal,
becauseeachfilmadaptionreinventshimwith
theviewpointsoftheirtime.

Bibliography

Akbar,A.(2012)FangsfortheMemory;AcenturyofDracula,TheIndependant,
http://www.independent.co.uk/artsentertainment/books/features/fangsforthememory
acenturyofdracula7628021.html(9/10/2013).

Besenyodi,A.(2007)BramStokersDracula,PopMatters,

http://www.popmatters.com/review/bramstokersdracula/(14/10/13).
BramStokersDracula(1992),http://hopelies.com/2009/06/09/bramstokersdracula
1992/(10/10/13).
Cousins,M.(2011)TheStoryofFilm,PavilionBooks,London.
Harris,R.(1998)ElementsoftheGothicNovel,UniversityofCaliforniaPress,
California.
Howtowriteafeaturearticle,
http://academics.uww.edu/cni/webquest/Fall02/newspaper/feature.htm(14/10/13).
Kavanaugh,M(2009)FilmReview:BramStokerssDracula,VampireVineyards,
BeverleyHills,CA,http://www.vampirevineyards.com/files/vampire_bram_mov.php
(12/10/13).
LaramieMovieScope:BramStoker'sDracula,
http://www.lariat.org/AtTheMovies/old/stokervamp.html(9/10/13).
Quinn,A.(1993),Absolutelyravishing:BramStoker'sDracula, TheIndependent,
http://www.independent.co.uk/artsentertainment/filmabsolutelyravishingbram
stokersdracula1482033.html,(13/10/13).

Re(focused)Views;BramStokersDracula,
http://www.deepfocusreview.com/reviews/bramstokersdracula.asp(9/10/13).