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It is precisely the point that Hollywood distorts and corrupts serious literature for the entertainment pleasures of a mass audience. In the task of comparing and contrasting the novel of "Dracula" to film extracts of "Bram Stoker’s Dracula", values, meaning and context discovered lie between discrepancy and similarity. The change from differing mediums, novel and film, reveal characteristics and possibilities of narratives. Through the advancement of technology, modern writers have gained a cinematic approach to their writing. However Dracula, written in 1987 by Abraham Stoker, where the introduction of technology was gradual, forging inventions such as the typewriter and phonograph, made reference to in the novel, had no anticipation of what technology would have an effect on such writings. With society’s fascination with the supernatural, and love of technology, Dracula’s many adaptations, film, stage, have ensured its survival through the passage of time.
To date, the closest adaptation of the original novel is Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The basic overview of the story has the departure of Jonathan Harker from his fiancée Mina Murray in London, visiting Transylvania where he has an encounter with the evil Dracula. In England we are introduced to the characters of Lucy, a socialite, and her three suitors. Through terror Jonathan escapes back home, while Dracula arrives in London where he attacks Lucy, Mina’s friend, and Mina herself. Dr. Van Helsing arrives as help with the unknown, and in the end a climatic battle in the Transylvanian Castle Dracula takes place. Dracula is an epistolary novel that consists of journal entries, letters, telegram, phonographic recordings of Dr. Seward, and excerpts from newspaper articles, meaning it was written from a number of perspectives. The film has done its best to this and is witnessed through a variety of viewpoints.
Four key film extracts will be discussed. The introduction of Mina, starting of with a medium long shot of her in the Westenra house, which allows the audience to pay more attention to what is happening in the background, the mise-en-scene being a large decorated room of the Victorian era, including plants, chairs. The setting of the whole room is surrounded by glass, which has the ability to allow natural light.
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This flows on to the evening meeting of Lucy’s three, very different suitors.
The scene mentioned, was adapted from the diary entries of Mina, and letter correspondence between the two ladies, the change from medium has kept Mina’s perspective, however not presented in the style.
Lucy’s three suitors are stereotyped in Coppola’s film by the actors clever use of characterisation, where Quincey P. Morris plays the self assured, loud mouthed Texan; Dr. John Seward is the stumbling doctor with a soft heart; Arthur Holmwood her eventual chosen suitor, the man with money.
The “new” woman, sexual woman, posed a threat to Victorian society. This new breed was seen through Lucy Westenra. In this extract she goes “sleepwalking”, suggesting prostitution, for in the film she wears a glamorous red night dress and her movements are smooth and seductive. The layers of sound, including thunder and howling wolves, lighting being the lightning, foreshadow Lucy’s diabolic end. The deliberate use of colour in the night dress worn by Mina, white reflects her purity as the ideal woman, compared to Lucy’s passionate, desiring red.
From the beginning, Lucy is portrayed as a temptress, prone to promiscuity as she wishes to marry three men; however only after Dracula bit her, her sexuality heightened. In this extract, Lucy, in a way, gets what she desired through a blood transfusion. Blood represents the struggle for sexual ownership. Lucy writes that “”Arthur feels very, very close to me. I seem to feel his presence warm about me”, after receiving her first blood transfusion from her fiancé Holmwood. The Christian ideals of marriage being a sacred union between two becomes troublesome for Lucy receives further transfusions from Quincey and Seward. Such an act threatens the pious sacred image of marriage, which was maintained in Victorian England; rather Lucy’s desire of promiscuity is achieved.
The use of voiceovers reflects perspective of characters, seen from the Captain of the Demeter, and Van Helsing. The three newspapers work as introductory film titles that stay true to the text.
The final excerpt is the killing of Lucy Westenra, which makes a powerful reinstatement of male sexual dominance in the late 19th century. Lucy poses a threat to the Victorian ideology by exposing herself as a danger to sexual propriety. She remarks about wanting to have more than one husband, which displays promiscuity, “Why can’t they let a girl marry three men or as many as want her?” this statement works as a threat which comes to fruition after Lucy is bitten. Once infected by Dracula, Lucy becomes sexually overt and aggressive; and is portrayed as a monster and a social outcast. She transforms into a fiend and feeds on children making her the maternal antithesis as well as a child molester. Coppola mimics the book onto the film with a degree of exactitude in the staking scene. In which the entrance of the tomb has a spooky minor tune is played to add another layer of horror to the gothic setting of the tomb. As the men open Lucy’s coffin, an aerial shot notifies the empty contents and a reverse angle shot is used of the dominant figure of Arthur looking into the coffin. The viewpoint of this shot highlights the submissiveness of women and dominance of their partners in Victorian England. A supernatural force was surrounded by Lucy when she, herself, entered the tomb, this, Coppola’s addition of candelabras instantaneously lighting themselves when Lucy draws nearer, highlighting her supposed fantastical powers.
A high pitched suspenseful tune is played, suggesting a climatic point, adding a bolder layer because Arthur takes charge of staking Lucy. In this order to rectify Lucy’s damned condition, where she has been seen as sexually overpowered by her fiancée, Arthur; he penetrates her to death with a stake through the heart, such a staking can be viewed as overtly sexual, quoting from the book “the thing in the coffin writhed; and a hideous, blood-curdling screech came from the opened red lips. The body shook and quivered and twisted in wild contortions; the sharp white teeth champed together till the lips were cut, and the mouth was smeared with a crimson foam… He looked like a figure of Thor as his untrembling arm rose and fell, driving deeper and deeper the mercy bearing stake” This sexual innuendo restores the Victorian balance of sexual penetration from the female domain back its accepted station within the male domain.
In the film the final task of severing the head is completed with ease and is in juxtaposition to the roast beef in the next scene.
Such a story as Dracula has been taken out of its 19th century context and into that of the late 20th, early 21st century, where gender roles are more equal and hetero and homo sexual behaviours are open, not taboo to society.
From Dracula’s beginning as a literary prototype, “vampirism” has always been used for coded articulations of desire and sexuality, as a way of writing about sex but without writing about sex. This is in comparison to Coppola, who add plenty of viewable violence, sex and gore to his film, that is not seen in the book. The likely explanation for this is the need to appeal to a modern audience as opposed to an audience from 1897. The reason for this is the fact that movies are a main source for information in modern day society, and hence shaping context in the 21st century. Stories of vampires have and will be passed down from one medium to the other as long as we show an interest in them.