Sunday, 10 November 2013

Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary

Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary – Guy Maddin – A retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula using the unexpected partnership of early cinema aesthetics and the medium of ballet. Although I thought such a project would be tricky to pitch, according to many interviews – due to the hybrid genre certainty of this film (Dracula : a ballet), apparently it was one of the easier and more succesful of Maddin’s films in terms of marketing. Making generous use of filters/or post- production editing (don’t know the specific ins and outs), the film uses a lot of colour changes – punctuating the predominant black and white with oneiric blues, sensual reds and burnt out sepias. Recalling the shifts in hue in Abel Gance’s J’Accuse (and, I imagine lots of other films that I am yet to see!). Perhaps the most suprising thing is – how dam suited Dracula is to ballet. There is something in the simmering violence and desire in the classic gothic tale, that once choreographed becomes immediately and powerfully communicated. The dancers convey all the necessary melodrama, eroticism and physicality that Dracula invites.

 Similar to many of Maddin’s films it also has the feeling of being viewed through a keyhole, or spied through some sort of time hurdling portal – as gestured towards in the first scene, in which we see a hand rubbing a circle of transparency on a dusty window pane. Both Luck and Mina are perfect, wide-eyed glamorous heroines – evocative of early cinema, so adept at the enthralled, and enthralling, consecration of female portraits. There is a scene that also playfully brings to mind L’Age d’Or, in the libidinous pursuit of fellatio…and in a convent…for shame! Such cock hungering extravagance, animated with absurdly elegant dance, works brilliantly as a set piece – achieving an ecclectic feast of tone: from erotic, fevered and fumbling in a pantomime of transgression, to delicate, humourous and frustrated in a display of frought emotion. The sets all work perfectly, reflecting not only the theatrical origins of this piece, but also evoking an appropriate decedance/detail in set design.

Dracula himself is fantastic, in also being the only asian actor the casting choice tips its hat to the imperialist fear in Bram Stoker’s original text – aligning the vampire not only with the danger and unknown of female sexuality, but also, with the ‘otherness’ of the exotic…a spectre threatening the British, flag bearing, identity built on empire. Again, it becomes obvious how suited ballet is to this over explored villian – articulating the poise and seduction of Dracula’s dangerous character with controlled leaps and twirls and, importantly, bringing something new to an overcrowded and potentially tired representation. It is not even, perhaps, that something new is presented, rather that – in its presentation, the partnership of Maddin’s decaying silent film visuals and the physical agility of ballet, an eccentric form emerges as startlingly well adapted to perform Stoker’s original vision. 8.5/10

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