Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary
July 5th 2012 04:22
Guy Maddin’s ambitious 2002 project showcases a stunning convergence of ballet, silent cinema and the music of Gustav Mahler. Based on Mark Godden’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Maddin’s film was originally commissioned for Canadian television.
Utilising a range of visual styles, including slow-motion and tinted colours overlaying the black and white to reflect the characters’ fluctuating emotional resonances, the director continues his affair with silent cinema - this however is not so much homage as grand-scale recreation of the pre-sound era, yet the effect he’s achieved is anything but archaic.
The story begins with the transformation of Lucy Westernra (Tara Birtwhistle), best friend of Mina Harker (CindyMarie Small), who scorns her suitors for an alluring Vampyr (Zhang Wei-Qiang). Once poisoned by infected blood, she’s treated, but to no avail, by the determined Dr. Van Helsing (David Moroni). Desperate action is required and a search for the Vampyr is conducted with the assistance of Mina and the advice of the incarcerated, bug-eating clairvoyant Renfield (Brent Neale), a loyal subject of their unholy enemy.
The action culminates in a showdown at Dracula’s castle where the arrival of Van Helsing and his men is juxtaposed against the Vampyr’s seduction of Mina. This magnificent third act is related through rapidly-edited, stunning visuals – the kind of evocation of 'beauty placed in the path of peril' that only a visionary artist of Maddin’s abilities could conceive of and execute.
This unique, mesmerising work is a blissful marriage of mediums: every frame burns with its creatively ambiguous placement, and yet it retains the sense of absolute authenticity – an early filmic archive dug from the tombs and lathered with Mahler’s, at times, dirge-like accompaniment.
Both faithful to its balletic origins and yet a distinctive cinematic statement of Maddin’s creative genius, Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary is a transcendent work of art - from its forever-in-motion, kaleidoscopic, wintry backdrops to its arresting use of the colour red.
Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary screens at Melbourne's ACMI cinemas from July 5-27 as part of Nocturnal Transmissions: The Cinema of Guy Maddin. Full details can be found HERE.
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