Commissioned by producer Vonnie Von Helmolt to adapt Mark Godden’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary for CBC’s Opening Night, Guy Madden creates an expressionistic curio every bit as playful as his mini-masterpiece Heart of the World (though certainly nowhere near as consistently engaging). Madden successfully downplays the element of dance in this black-and-white neo-silent film to fabulous effect. Though movement is barely discernible beneath the endless fog and digital effects, it feels that much more special (almost cathartic) when characters do break into synchronized dance. Put simply, it’s never boring! (A standout image is that of Lucy’s saviors twirling inside Dracula’s abode, the light from their lanterns twinkling in the night.) Madden seemingly refuses to broach the allegory of AIDS that’s become so inextricably bound to modern vampire tales and adaptations of Dracula and does something entirely more relevant. Zhang Wei-Qiang stars as Dracula, referred explicitly in the opening scenes of the film as an Other that invades from the East (for added effect, his blood literally crawls across a map of the world from Asia to Europe). Madden’s many fixations are exaggerated and fetishized to delirious proportions. The virginal women in the film are fiercely independent and hungry for cock; Jonathan Harker (a closet-case perhaps?) rejects his girlfriend Mina’s advances, thus ushering in Dracula’s amour fou. Madden elaborately likens the spilling of blood to ejaculation throughout the film, but there are more fascinating penetrations going on. Dracula shoves money (tinted green) in the faces of the men who will kill him. And when Dr. Van Helsing cuts Dracula’s arm, it’s gold coins and not blood that the vampire spills. A master conservationist and expert image-maker, Madden reimagines Bram Stoker’s classic text as a feverish vision of Christian angst and cultural invasion.
- Zeitgeist Films
- 73 min
- Guy Maddin
- Mark Godden
- Zhang Wei-Qiang, Tara Birthwhistle, David Moroni, CindyMarie Small, Johnny A. Wright, Stephane Leonard, Matthew Johnson, Keir Knight, Brent Neale
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: