Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

For me the Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre is far more than just a place to watch movies, for me it’s a haven, an escape from the pressures and stresses of life. It’s a place I have fallen in love with over the years, where you meet friend’s and acquaintances and have conversations with complete strangers about film. Its run and staffed by people, some of which have worked there for over 25 years, who give the impression that would not care to work any where else, people that always make you feel at home and your visit enjoyable.

One member of the staff Ms Susan Kenny is in the last semester of her third year of an MA in Liberal Arts at the University of Glasgow on the Dumfries Campus. Susan’s options for this particular semester where either to continue with classes as usual or deliver a proposal for a placement in a working environment. She pitched a suggestion for a week long Academic Film Festival that would bring together the University and its students along with Film and RBC. Which would have the additional benefit of introducing new young people to the Film Theatre. Both of the RBCFT Film Officers were more than happy to encourage and mentor Susan.

The first film in her programme was quite a coup; she managed to land an unreleased American documentary that had never been screened without the director being present. By using her persuasive powers she not only convinced Doctor Randy Olson, a marine biologist turned filmmaker, to allow her to show his film Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy (2008) but to take part in a Q&A via the medium of Skype. After screening mainly documentary’s to her student audience the closing event was a feature film with Doctor Ralph Jessop, one of the University of Glasgow’s emanate lecturers in Literature, leading the post-film discussion with Victorian Literature, Art and Philosophy students and one or two visitors.

Count Dracula and Mina Harker.
Very much based on Bram Stokers 1897 classic novel Dracula, Bram Stokers Dracula (1992) is powerfully directed by the man that gave us such near masterpieces as The Godfather Trilogy (1972-1990), The Conversation (1974) and best of all, Apocalypse Now (1979). Francis Ford Coppola and his screenplay writer James V Hart set out with the deliberate intent to make this film as close as possible to Stokers original text, going as far as including a prologue to demonstrate that Dracula was a direct descendant of Vlad the Impaler an Eastern European Prince from the House of Draculesti, also included was the novels diary and letter format which was cleverly used as a narrative device. The film also makes reference to previous movies about the vampiratic Lord of Darkness including Nosferartu: A Symphony of Horror (1922) and the Hammer Film Company’s ‘depictions into the deeper tendrils of Victorian naughtiness and gothic mischief[1]’. The film starred a rather convincing Gary Oldman as Count Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina Harker for whom the Count has a deeply obsessive love, Anthony Hopkins plays Professor Abraham Van Helsing a character best known as a vampire hunter and the archenemy of Dracula with Keanu Reeves type cast as a pathetic Jonathan Harker.

The discussion that followed this gothic love story was slightly more academic than the normal RBC’s Film Club discussions, but was extremely interesting to this observer. They included the link between blood and menstruation, erotic sexual lovemaking and the symbolism of white wax oozing down a candle, and the fact that all the erotic sequences featured oral sex! We touched on the violation of the Christian sacrament and how the film demonstrated the liberalisation of women.  It was agreed that it was a difficult book to adapt for the screen in a way that does not loose the meaning or ‘feel’ of the original, but it was pointed out there was considerable more humour in the film than in the book.

Although the main character was obviously in contravention of normal behavioral patterns Coppola’s film encouraged the viewer to have a certain amount of sympathy for his humane interpretation of Dracula and the man’s rather unorthodox wooing of Mina Harker.  Although the colour had slightly faded the Blu-ray copy of this film sounded and looked very good.  It’s only left to thank Susan for all her hard work putting on this Film Festival and to wish her success with her Dissertation.

The book and its author.

[1] Susan Kenny 2013.

1 comment:

  1. Awww, I'm so glad you enjoyed the event Brian. I loved reading your blog on the experience.

    For me the Bram Stoker's novel and Coppola's film are wonderfully complimentary of each other, bringing the modern (1990s) in line with the historic (1897). Gary Oldman was fantastic as both the monster and the man and Anthony Hopkins relished his outrageous Van Helsing. I loved the film and I especially loved our post-film discussion.

    Thank you so much for being in my audience! :)