DRACULA: PAGES FROM A VIRGINS DIARY
Maddin and Mark Godden trim some aspects of Bram Stoker and rearrange others (the film comes in at a surprisingly slim 73 minutes). The books extended prologue concerning Jonathan Harkers trip to Transylvania is removed, although a potted recount of these events are presented later in the piece. Lucy Westenra is blown up to become the central character the film now centres around two set-pieces involving her and then Minas seduction. In fact, Pages from a Virgin's Diary is a ballet in two acts one set entirely in Lucys bedroom where she is preyed upon (in an exceedingly smart move, her bed comes apart to become her funeral bier without a single scene change), and a second act set around the graveyard and castle where Dracula seduces Mina. While trimming the book down, Guy Maddin at the same time always looks to the Bram Stoker text for his inspiration and keeps the essence of the detail exceedingly well in fact, this is much more faithful to the text than either than 1931 or 1958 non-balletic film adaptations. Maddin even gives us details from the book such as the episode with the Bloofer Girl. The climactic battle with Dracula has been increased over and above the book to become almost a balletic rendition of the climax from the Hammer adaptation Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958) with the Crew of Light driving Dracula away with crucifixes and beams of light from rent walls, before multiply staking him.
Though the film remains a ballet, Guy Maddin directs with a sensuality and energy such that one frequently forgets this and instead sit watching the adaptation of the story. Unlike most many filmed ballets and operas, there is not the sense that the director is merely pointing the camera at action that would normally be taking place on a stage but rather that Maddin has broken the action up and deliberately adapted it to the filmic medium. The dance movements all come exquisitely stylised how the staking of Dracula or the servants placement of garlic around Lucy is turned into a dance or the way in which the Crew of Light moves through the castle holding their torches in pirouetting formation. It is one of the rare examples where a ballet has been given a virtuoso dynamism that makes it work as a film. Maddin has also done an impeccable job of stylistically recreating the look of silent film the intertitle cards, the lighting and makeup, the long slow fades and irising of the lens, the colour tints of various parts of the film. Some parts of the b/w frame have also been tinted the blood naturally flows red and for some reason of uncertain symbolism so to is the money, with coins tinted gold and notes a lurid green.
Guy Maddin takes the unusual step of giving us a Chinese Dracula in Wei-Qiang Zhang. As Dracula, Wei-Qiang Zhang lacks the magnetic stature and intensity that other essayists of the role like Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee invested the part with. However, a Chinese Dracula does give Guy Maddin the opportunity to interpret Dracula as a specifically racial threat. Where most other adaptations of the book see Dracula as representing a repressed sexual presence invading the prim propriety of Victorian England, Maddin interprets Dracula as a racial pollutant. In one of the intertitle cards, we see Draculas journey to England as an arrow on a map, which comes highlighted by a single, lurid red word Immigrants! Later there is talk of Lucys blood having been polluted, where the clear implication is that foreign blood has entered her system and the only immediate recourse is a transfusion from the Caucasian Englishmen.
All of the cast are the original players from the 1998 Winnipeg stage production. Amid these, Dave Moroni makes for an excellent Van Helsing, his age and imposing intellectual certainty making him one of the most perfectly suited actors to the role. The Crew of Light, although minor characters, are perfectly cast as earnest young suitors who could have stepped out of a monochrome photo of the era.
Other adaptations of Dracula are: the uncredited classic German silent Nosferatu (1922); Universals Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi; the Spanish language version Dracula (1931) shot on the same sets as the Lugosi version starring Carlos Villarias; Hammers classic Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958) with Christopher Lee; Dracula in Pakistan (1967), an uncredited remake of the Hammer film; Count Dracula (1970) a cheap continental production which also featured Lee; Dracula (1974), a cinematically-released tv movie starring Jack Palance; Count Dracula (1977), a BBC tv mini-series featuring Louis Jourdan; Dracula (1979), a lush remake starring Frank Langella; Werner Herzogs Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) with Klaus Kinski; Francis Ford Coppolas visually ravishing Bram Stokers Dracula (1992), featuring Gary Oldman; the modernized Italian-German adaptation Dracula (2002); the BBC tv movie Dracula (2006) with Marc Warren; ; the low-budget modernised Dracula (2009); Dario Argentos Dracula (2012) with Thomas Kretschmann as Dracula; the low-budget Canadian Terror of Dracula (2012) with director Anthony D.P. Mann as Dracula; and the tv series Dracula (2013-4) with Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
(Winner in this sites Top 10 Films of 2002 list).