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Dracula, Pages From A Virgin's Diary
Guy Maddin re-examines a classic
by Hubert Huang on Aug 20, 2004
A quick look at any mainstream release this summer illustrates the vast resources that filmmakers today have at their disposal. Computer generated images and visual effects have become so ingrained in current day films, that we no longer even take notice of their use. So when a director makes a decision to create a silent black and white film, this is not done for practicality, but rather as an exercise in creativity. Dracula, Pages From A Virgin's Diary, the newest feature from cult director Guy Maddin (Archangel, Twilight of the Ice Nymphs), is more than anything such an exercise.
The story opens as Dracula (Zhang Wei-Qiang) claims his first victim Lucy (Tara Birtwhistle). Her fiancée is called upon to donate blood to her in an attempt to cleanse her of the infection, but as soon as she begins to recover, Dracula returns to reinfect her. Once Lucy has been claimed as one of the undead, Dracula shifts his seductions to her best friend Nina.
Though loosely based on Bram Stoker's familiar and classic tale, Maddin's film is much more about the style with which it is shot than the story it tells. His decision to omit sound, except for the haunting soundtrack of Gustav Mahler, seems with the intention to shift the focus singularly onto the images that Maddin captures with his camera. He imposes a grainy look to all the shots to match its wordless soundtrack, giving it the feel of a movie made many decades ago. In addition, he chooses to omit color, except for the voluptuous shade of red that he uses to show blood whenever it is drawn. We follow Maddin's lens as it cuts quickly in and out, focusing one moment on a character's expressions, and the next on the sensual choreography of Mark Godden of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Everything is stylized from the overdramatic scenes of transfusing blood, to the dancers leaping out of ubiquitous clouds of smoke that accentuate their graceful leaps.
This type of movie is one that is difficult to capture in a verbal description. Because it is so much more about visual elegance, than a tangible storyline, it's something that must be seen rather than described in order to be appreciated. After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, to describe this story of pictures would require far more space than a one-page review.
On first glance, this is what I gather about the film. It is silent. It is black and white. It is a ballet. Not exactly what we would call summer blockbuster material, but rather something that the boyfriend gets dragged to after skipping too much quality time. And truth be told, this is not the type of film that your average popcorn muncher is going to go home and tell his friends to stand in line for. But if you want something that completely steps away from anything that's playing at the Metreon for the next three months, this will certainly fit that bill. And if you happen to like ballet, consider it a bonus.
Dracula, Pages from a Virgin's Diary
1 hour, 15 minuntes
Directed by: Guy Maddin
by Hubert Huang on Aug 20, 2004