Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary
Posted by martinteller on June 11, 2012
This film, produced for Canadian television, takes four things I have mixed feelings about — Guy Maddin, silents, ballet and vampires — and churns them up into some kind of perfect storm. Adapted from a production by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (with lovely Mahler music), it may lack some of the amazingly original storytelling that we’re used to from Maddin, but it also lacks the messy incoherence that originality sometimes results in. And it’s not like he doesn’t put his personal stamp on it. Maddin’s penchant for old-fashioned camera techniques really suits this tale, enhancing the Victorian aura of the source material. It’s often stunningly beautiful, with ultra-soft focus and blown-out lights and expressionist angles. The dance is very intriguing in this aesthetic as well, it’s a wonderful meld of styles, a post-modern gothicism without the baggage that implies.
“Dracula” is in some ways an ideal template for bringing out an auteur’s style. Can you imagine a Wes Anderson take on it? Or Weerasethakul? Jesus, how about Bela Tarr? The mind boggles at the possibilities. The familiarity of the story allows Maddin to be as narratively obscure as he likes, with a well-known foundation rooting the film. There are any number of subtextual themes to play off of… Maddin focuses on its xenophobia (“IMMIGRANTS!” is one of the first few title cards) and the threat of female sexuality to men. Throughout the film, the males are constantly trying to keep a woman’s desires in check (how much of this stems from the original ballet, I’m not certain, but it undoubtedly is something that interests Maddin).
I suppose a true Maddin fan would prefer something more personal, but to me this was a revelation. Really entrancing and gorgeous, and with the usual moments of humor. Except for The Heart of the World, this is my favorite by him so far. Rating: Great