Friday, February 25, 2005
Mina and the Count
This morning was spent watching the Francis Ford Coppola-directed Bram Stoker's Dracula. It's supposed to be the most true-to-the-book cinematic version of the story of Dracula, and well, perhaps it is. I haven't seen any other movie versions, so I can't comment, - but no, it's not a completely true-to-book version. For example, the movie has a lot of bunkum about Mina Murray being Dracula's wife eons ago, and it romanticizes Dracula's pact with the Devil as something because of (Princess?) Mina's untimely suicide. Romance, however, turns out to be the movie's strongest point. Romance and drama.
Anyone who has read Stoker's work will recall that it is a highly dramatic tale. There are smaller sub-plots that trickle everywhere and all coalesce in the end to form an evocative ending. Coppola's movie sustains Stoker's drama, and perhaps, even encourages it. There are so many little instruments, angles, ways and means to make you shudder at the pure drama involved on screen - it's a very rich, luxurious setting.
Coppola also redeems the Count, which is something Stoker never does. Stoker's Dracula is a great and fearless persona while he was alive, but in his undead form he is a creature of the Devil - to be loathed, feared, hunted, killed, vanquished. The necessity of vanquishing Dracula is there in Coppola's narrative as well, but the romance introduced between Mina's alter-(Princess)-ego and the love-struck Prince Vlad is something that makes you feel. Dracule hesitates at the last instant, when he is to make Mina drink of his blood and seal her fate, and it is she who declares her love for him at the last moment and drinks - that hesitation on his part, that desire on her part, never happens in Stoker.
Stoker was always very careful and differential in his treatment of the two women in his story - Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra. Lucy is the coquetish one, as far as Stoker is concerned, she is the one who flirts with men, who sighs and groans and moans with lust and rapture at Dracula - while Mina is the kindly, homely, sensible woman who loves her husband Jonathan Harker and hates herself for having betrayed him by accepting Dracula's bite. When I read Stoker, I thought him a complete Victorian in terms of old-fashioned ideas about what women are supposed to be like - chaste women, at least. Coppola's Mina is a much more vibrant creature, and much more passionate. She kisses Dracula when the stake is finally driven through him, and she spirits him away from her husband Jonathan, so that he may die in her arms. It is on account of the new romance that Coppola introduced, but what of it? - it only makes a sappy old romantic like me love the story more! Mina Murray is a torn women, with two loves, and she makes a choice for both of them.
Did I mention that it is a highly erotic story, as well? Something which was a bit discomfiting, with my grandmum sitting next to me while I was watching it. (I passed through the experience mentally unscarred, though: amen!) Something which is completely consistent with the way Stoker imagined it. Stoker's Dracula is meant to be a highly erotic creature, the perpetuation of his blood-line is meant to evoke fantasy, the Three Wives are meant to be a sado-masochist's dream-come-true, the seduction of Lucy Westenra is meant to be the deflowering of virginity, etcetera etcetera. Coppola adds to this, the passionate erotica between Mina and the Count, while Stoker had kept the Mina-Jonathan bond in his novel at a largely non-erotic angle, - which reminded me at the time of reading it, of "No sex for us, please. We're British!" Well, Coppola is not British in the least, and the chemistry between Mina and Dracula is quite sexy, to say the least.
The verdict: An eminently watchable movie; it can get chilling at times, is grand at all times, and is advised for a romantic screening for two the next time V-day comes rolling, if you feel like something 'different'.
PS: I seem to recall a cartoon sometime back, called Mina and the Count, on Cartoon Network. Mina was this bratty six-year-old who would always foil the green-faced Count's advances. Damn!...
Mirror Mirror #10: I have still not read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and while I loved Dracula, the damn book took me ages to read - it's sooooo frikkin' descriptive at times! My all-time favourite thriller poem is The Listeners by Tennyson, I think.
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