Abraham Stoker, more commonly known as Bram, was born near Clontarf, Ireland on November 8, 1847. The third born of seven children, Bram was confined to bed until the age of seven by an unknown illness. Though he was shy during his childhood, Bram developed into a fine athlete and academic student by his teenage years. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, with honours in mathematics in 1870.
Bram had always dreamed of becoming a writer then finally, in 1882 his dream came true as his first book was published. After this first publication, a further 16 books would be published, but of these, none stand out like the story of Dracula, the book has been widely interpreted and adapted in many films since 1897 when it was first written (Dracula was one of the first films released, directed by Todd Browning in 1931). Despite over a century of time since the initial publication, Dracula has maintained its ability to frighten and mesmerise readers.Order now
Francis Ford Coppola’s screen-version of the book, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”; however, utilises the erotic romance of the original novel in order to depict a tragic love story. The film accurately follows the general plot of the novel, yet presents the characters in a unique manner that provides a different appreciation of the characters, this is just one of the many factors that make it, arguably, the best cinematic remake of the original book.
The film starts by showing us how the death of one man’s only love, resulted in him becoming an immortal ‘creature’, doomed to thirst after the blood of living animals, usually virginal young females. This opening scene is essential to the whole film as it tells of why Dracula isn’t a normal man. “Vlad Dracule” was a knight in the sacred army of the church, who left his wife in order to fight against an invading Turkish army. The battle was successful, and the church’ army won; yet, in retaliation, the Turks sent Dracula’s new wife, Elizobeta, a letter that falsely reported the death of her beloved. Elizobeta felt she couldn’t live without her husband and in turn, threw herself from the top of a building, into the river below.
When Dracula returns from battle to find his one true love dead, the church tells him that her soul cannot be saved because she had taken her own life. Dracula, understandably, feels betrayed; the Church he has just fought for, the Religion he was willing to risk his own life for, will now do nothing in return for him. He screams that he is renouncing God and after swinging his sword above his head in a fit of rage, he stabs it into the stone crucifix, causing blood to gush from its center (note: this point of the cross is where Jesus’ head/heart will have been). Dracula fills a chalice with the blood and drinks it, vowing to oppose God for eternity, thereby causing himself to become eternally damned as a vampire.
The most important thing we must notice about this account is that Dracula turned against the church because it refused to forgive his beloved wife; showing that Dracula was willing to sacrifice his own soul for the woman that he truly loved, a big difference from the blood-drinking, tyrant we all know Dracula to be. In just these first few scenes we have seen at the least; four elements needed to create a successful gothic film. First of all we have the setting in a castle (or at least the feel of a castle, as it could be a church) that is used so often, next we see a woman in distress as Elizobeta receives the false news that her husband was dead, she is so distressed that she takes her own life. When Dracula comes back to find Elizobeta dead, he is overcome by a loss of emotional control, as his feelings range from sorrow and crying, to anger as he lifts his sword above his head and swings it in a mad fury.
This leads to him sticking the sword into a large crucifix, bringing around the final gothic element in this scene, which is a supernatural event, as the crucifix starts to bleed, and the stone angels on the walls weep blood. It is also true to say that most, if not all gothic films have the element of romance that “Bram Stokers Dracula” uses so well, not only in this first part of the film, but all the way throughout. It is so well used in fact, that in parts of the film we actually start to feel sorry for Dracula, as he weeps in memory of his lost love. There is also a feeling of Dracula’s bite being quite erotic, although it is a vicious act; it is more of a love making experience than that of a blood-sucking vampire.
Straight from this scene, we are taken to 19th century London, into a mental asylum, where we are looking down on a man (who we later learn to be called Renfield) with large, over-eccentric hair, in a small padded room all alone. Even though we know he is alone, we hear him talking to someone, or something, almost like a god, calling him master and such like, having a conversation with him, though there is no one with him, also we see he is knelt or on his knees, as though he were in prayer. Although Renfield could be speaking with a God, one seen as ‘good’, we can see that he is covered in darkness, although evil had been taking him over, also he starts eating insects, but, when the guards come in, we see the true state of this man, as he tries to attack one of the guards.
In the next scene we see a young solicitor named Jonathan Harker, being told that his newest job is to travel to Transylvania and talk to an “old eccentric count” (this of course is Dracula) about purchasing a number of properties around London. Jonathan is told that if he does well and pleases the count, his future at the company will be secured. Knowing that an employee has already visited the same client, he asks what happened to him, his employer just says that he had some “personal problems”, Jonathan doesn’t question this, as it’s the other persons business. We now notice that Jonathan has all the characteristics of the classic hero, he is young, attractive and now has a sense of duty. All of Jonathan’s scenes seem to be very civilised, but, all the civilised scenes, come straight after and before scenes of darkness or evil, which could imply that something bad is going to happen.