Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins
Written by: James V. Hart
Book: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
How good is this movie?
Of all the Dracula adaptations I’ve seen, this is by far the most faithful – though it still takes considerable liberties with the text. Setting aside Keanu Reeves and his horrible English accent, the cast is decent. The aesthetic choices are interesting, if sometimes questionable. The biggest issues for me are the directing – which tends to make the action comical rather than spooky – and the many sexualised sequences – which drag and become boring.
How ace is this movie?
Just in case you missed the sexual themes of the book, the movie carefully bashes you over the head with them. It’s not just the vampires that are sexual: the sexual tension in Jonathan and Mina’s relationship is a constant theme, as is the tension between Lucy and her three suitors. Mina and Lucy look at pornographic pictures together and even share a gratuitous girl-on-girl snog. Van Helsing also manages to work sex into a surprising number of his conversations. Basically, sex is something this film can’t get away from.
The most strikingly sexualised element is the relationship between Dracula and Mina. Dracula, in this version, does not simply feed off of Mina, but courts her romantically. His tragic reason – that she reminds him of his dead lover – is presented as his one humanising element. Despite the many lives he has ruined, the audience is invited to sympathise with him for the most heteronormative of reasons: because he, too, is capable of heterosexual love. Mina’s response is disappointingly favourable. Though “Prince Vlad” has nothing to recommend him besides raw sexual charisma, she abandons the bedside of her sick friend to go on dates with him. And, even when she discovers his true nature, she remains tormented by her love for him. Indeed, Mina’s love for Dracula becomes crucial to the resolution of the story. Only by accepting her role as Dracula’s lover – that is, by falling for her stalker – is Mina able to release him from his suffering and put an end to his predations. This contrasts rather sharply with the book, in which Mina uses clerical skills and inductive reasoning to compile useful information about Dracula. In this version, heterosexual love is presented as the only power she has or needs.
How ace are these vampires?
True to form, the film takes the sexual subtext in the vampire-human relationships and turns it into explicit sexuality. Jonathan’s scene with the three brides is basically played as a seduction, and Van Helsing even refers to it as “infidelity”. Lucy is shown having sex with Dracula, and when Dracula attacks Mina, she greets him as a lover. All of these interactions are predatory, but the film doesn’t seem interested in exploring issues of consent and coercion; vampiric sexuality is simply portrayed as an irresistible force humans are helpless to withstand.
3 Stars; 2 Aces