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Friday, October 31, 2008

Book vs Film: Dracula vs Bram Stoker's Dracula

Primary Differences: The film incorporates the legend of Vlad the Impaler as a back story for the Count. It also cuts the book’s afterward which details Mina and Harker’s married life and the birth of their son.

For The Book: There’s no question that the book has been incredibly influential. It introduced one of the most recognizable characters in fiction and, along with Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu, it helped establish the hallmarks of a genre.

For The Film: What I love most about the film is that it’s not just an adaptation of the novel but also of the major vampire films that preceded it; it’s like an appreciation of the entire genre. It’s also a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and, as played by Anthony Hopkins, provides my favourite version of Van Helsing. Hopkins has a lot of great moments in the film, delivering lines with admirable dryness (my favourite? “I just want to cut off her head and take out her heart,” said as if it’s the most reasonable and ordinary thing in the world). Gary Oldman also delivers a great and memorable performance.

Winner: Film. It may be a classic, but I really dislike the book. Partly it’s the style (it’s told in epistolary form, which I hate) and partly it’s Stoker’s preoccupation with emerging technologies (which Coppola’s film alludes to) which I find really disrupts the tension that the story proper is attempting to build. For me, the book was a total slog .

The film, on the other hand, is an absolute guilty pleasure of mine. It isn’t a great movie, or even the best vampire movie, but it’s a lot of fun to watch, especially with other people. I think it’s a brilliant homage to the classics of the genre (literary, filmic, and mythological), a movie which is obviously made by someone who loves movies. And even though it features some questionable accents (hello there, Keanu and Winona) and some blatant pandering to adolescent male fantasies (Harker’s seduction by the Brides of Dracula, and a kiss between Winona Ryder and Sadie Frost which is perhaps meant to suggest Carmilla), I still adore it.

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