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Dracula - Pages from a Virgin's Diary
Dracula - Pages from a Virgin's Diary
Actors: Wei-Qiang Zhang, Tara Birtwhistle, Dave Moroni, CindyMarie Small, Johnny A. Wright
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
UR     2004     1hr 13min

After garnering widespread acclaim with his mini-masterpiece THE HEART OF THE WORLD, red hot cult auteur Guy Maddin (THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD) has taken on the world?s most adapted horror tale and concocted his most ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Wei-Qiang Zhang, Tara Birtwhistle, Dave Moroni, CindyMarie Small, Johnny A. Wright
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Silent Films, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Dance, Educational, Musicals
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 05/18/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 13min
Screens: Black and White,Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 11
Edition: Special Edition
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Guy Maddin films the ballet "Dracula" as a silent movie
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Actually, if you stop and think about it, the idea of filming a ballet as a silent movie makes perfect sense. But because this rather obvious comparison has never occurred to us before the decision of director Guy Maddin ("Careful," "Tales From the Gimli Hospital") to film Mark Godden's "Dracula" as adapted and choreographed for Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet seems like a masterstroke. I was not surprised that somebody would write a ballet based on Dracula, but it turns out that is not exactly what happened here. The music in "Dracula - Pages from a Virgin's Diary" is by Gustav Mahler, taken from his first and second symphonies, neither of which was written as dance music for Bram Stoker's gothic horror novel, but Godden and Maddin make it all work. So that is too surprises delivered to the audience before Dracula ever starts dancing.For those familiar with the novel or the various film versions of "Dracula" that have tried to stay in the vicinity of Stoker's original text, the story picks up in England with Lucy Westernra (Tara Birthwhistle) trying to pick between her three suitors, Dr. Jack Seward (Matthew Johnson), Arthur Holmwood (Stephane Leonard), and Quincy Morris (Keir Knight), not to mention creepy bug-eating Renfield (Brent Neale). When Lucy falls prey to the vampire's curse, Dr. Van Helsing (David Moroni) arrives to teach the unbelievers what to do when someone they love becomes one of the undead.The second half of the ballet deal with the effort by Dracula (Wei-Qiang Zhang) to take Mina (CindyMarie Small) away from her intended, Jonathan Harker (Johnny A. Wright), and the flight back to Castle Dracula. But if Lucy is the pivotal character in the first half the film, and Birthwhistle's performance is the most thrilling in the ballet, then it clearly all comes down to Dracula in the second half. The vampire's final fate will certainly strike a chord with those aware of the more perverse habits of the historical Vlad the Impaler, who served as the inspiration for Stoker's Dracula. Those familiar with the story will have no trouble following along, but the copious use of title cards fill in any and all gaps. Fortunately they become much less frequent in the ballet's climax, where dance becomes the vital medium of expression.Visually, "Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary" is as fascinating as Abel Gance's "Napoleon" or Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane." Maddin shot the film in black & white on both 16mm and Super 8 stock, used special effects and aging techniques to simulate the grainy and shadowy images of silent films, and tinted frames various colors to accent items. The inside of Dracula's cape and most of the blood in the film appears bright red. Those familiar with the standard techniques of silent films (wipes, iris shots, soft framing, intertitles, tinting) will find that Maddin employs them and then turns them into something more suited to his own tastes (you can listen to the director's audio commentary to get insights into all the strange and weird things he did in putting Mark Godden's ballet on screen, such as using Bram Stoker's text as much as possible for the titles and chocolate syrup for the blood in the opening credits). Maddin avoids sustained shots; there must be at least a dozen cuts in every single minute of this 75-minute film. When you check out the Behind the Scenes segment on the DVD you will see what Winnepig audiences saw on stage with this version of "Dracula," but there are relatively few moments that are recognizable of that production in the film. Shooting the footage was just the first part of the artistic process for Maddin. Fans of the silent cinema may well be more impressed with this film than devotees of the ballet or those who like vampire movies. Not surprisingly the emphasis is on the eroticism inherent in the story that is as important as the horror. The sets for the convent and Dracula's castle invoke the height of German Expressionism, but the soft shapes and curves of the walls also emphasize the sensual. All of this serves as a setting for the sensual dancing. The coy sensuality of Lucy and her beaus because charged with a more overt sexuality when she becomes a vampire, while Dracula's coolness only serves to heighten his raw sexual energy. Fans of the ballet will probably not appreciation all of the hoops Maddin makes them jump through to watch the dancing here, but I think fans of Dracula will really enjoy this bold twist on the old tale."
Sublime Journey Converging in Notions and the Subconscious
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 05/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Movement could be interpreted in the same manner that the symbols of the alphabet are, as a series of letters create a word while a number of words form a sentence. In dance the viewer can observe each separate movement though the combination of a successive number of movements that generate a bigger meaning. The dance ultimately leads the audience on a journey with feelings, adventure, and much more. Through the help of ballet the Canadian auteur Guy Maddin restores Bram Stoker's character Dracula in an artistic mirror image of F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror from 1922 or Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979).

Unlike the previous Murnau and Herzog vampire films Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary has purposely shifted its storyline from a typical chronological order to a tossed jumble. This cinematic mixture generates an unconscious imagery with a surrealistic touch where the audience senses the moments of suspense and alarm. There are also emotions such as deep desire and lust which also emerge through the vivid movements of the dancers that once again bring this tale of the dark prince coming to England. Some might assume that the unorganized pattern of the film would affect the experience in a negative way. However, Maddin skillfully induces this nightmare into a surrealistic concoction that allows for the combination of feelings to trickle down to the audience in an artistic manner.

The sexual element of vampires is kept intact in Maddin's film, as he also continues to develop this taboo ridden theme. The film opens with Lucy (Tara Birtwhistle) dreaming, which is illustrated through a number of bizarre shots that have been edited together that deal with the arrival of Dracula (Wei-Qiang Zhang). This nightmare brings out a contradictory desire that Lucy contemplates while scribbling in her journal, "Why can't they let a woman marry three men?" These three men are Arthur Holmwood (Stephane Leonard), Jack Seward (Matthew Johnson), and Quincy Morris (Keir Knight) who all have been suitors to Lucy. However, due to societal convention she must choose one of the men. Throughout the film the viewers will face several situations that deal with the lustful theme, as the vampire desires more from his victims while Van Helsing (Dave Moroni) tries to stop him.

The film creates the same ambience that silent black and white films did before the time of color and sound films. The music that accompanies the film is by Mahler, which induces additional suspense and anxiety. There are some sounds that have been added to the film that highlights characters and situations in such a manner to points out the importance of the situation. Besides the audio the images have also been manipulated through a wide range of color filters that brings about different moods to the film while picture softness on the edge increases the viewers focus on what is pertinent on the screen. Maddin also playfully uses colors, as he later did in The Saddest Music in the World (2003), by enhancing scenes with the color red where there is blood or strong emotion involved.

Dracula: Pages of a Virgin's Diary offers a sublime artistic journey where Maddin converges distinct notions with the vague subconscious. In the area where these two meet we find a surreal dream world with erotic undertones and threatening elements. The union of erotic and fright causes an unknown cerebral notion that enhances the angst in the story. Together with the movement of the dancers the angst is personified and the audience gets an opportunity to visually feel the internal conflict between all of the characters in the film, which in due course ends with a terrific cinematic experience."
Sensuous and Dreamy Dracula
Rebecca Johnson | Washington State | 10/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Guy Maddin's ballet adaptation set to Gustav Mahler's First, Second and Ninth Symphonies captures longing, optimism, tragedy, sensuality and madness and almost embodies a classic innocence (except for a few overtly erotic moments). Dracula's victims (Lucy and Mina) feel a force of attraction so powerful, they seem to revel in the seduction and call him from his world of darkness. Not even garlic or crosses seem to dissuade his lust for blood as Lucy (Tara Birtwhistle) reclines helplessly in bed.

Dracula (Zhang Wei-Qiang ) plays the part of a romantic rival, tempting women away from men who fail to meet these women's desires to be needed, as if for life itself. In a seductive play of shadow and light, energetic ballet performances spin in scene after scene of color. Yes, in this black-and-white adaptation, you will find scenes drenched in emerald, rose, deep navy, lavender, sage and crimson. The colors are rich, yet transparent and the fantastic detail of the set is at times almost hidden on the first viewing.

In fact, I recommend watching this movie twice. Once to view the story and romantic choreography, then the second time to take note of the actual set, costumes and use of color. I found it difficult to take in the richness of this movie in one sitting because I found myself concentrating on the story more than the set on the first viewing. The ruby glow in Dracula's eyes and the sapphire glow on the crosses are worth watching twice. You can see how the sets were made in the extras and also choose to listen to the commentary on the second viewing.

Vampire hunting is a main theme throughout this story. Van Helsing appears as a coarse mad scientist who is determined to save his patients from Dracula's blood draining tendencies and yet his concern for Lucy seems less than professional. Dracula seems to treat Lucy with more care as he drains the life force from her body. In fact, you may start to feel sympathy for Dracula, who seems much less of a seducer and almost a supplier of pleasure for his victims. Van Helsing observes Dracula dancing with Lucy through binoculars. This creates a circle in the center of the screen, which significantly reduces the picture size for moments at a time. The scenes shift in tone and size on a constant basis.

The fantastic detail, inventive fantasy sets, delicate women in romantic luminous gowns makes this a lush dreamy Dracula movie. If you keep waiting for the vampires to turn to dust, it never happens. They even seem to recover from brief moments in the sunlight.

There are a few moments of tongue-in-cheek humor instead of blood-drenched terror. Dracula bleeds coins and has stashes of emerald bills, which seems to represent an economic rather than physical threat to his romantic rivals.

Overall, I have to say this is stunningly beautiful and as fantasy as ballet could be. The scenes of Dracula and Lucy dancing in the snowy graveyard take romance to spectacular levels. If you dislike horror and love romance, then this Dracula adaptation is sure to please. The horror seems more like a mythological dance, so it doesn't appear threatening or allow you to become emotionally involved or even terrified.

If you hit "pause," you may enjoy reading a few pages from the diary. If you enjoy creating moods for movies, the Archipelago Botanicals Ambiant tea light candles melt into a shimmering crimson liquid. Definitely watch this by candlelight because it helps to emphasize the play of light and shadow.

~The Rebecca Review
The Epitome Of "Dracula" As High Art
"Tristan" | NJ USA | 09/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I came upon this beautiful and unforgettable retelling of the classic Dracula mythos recently.

This is a film that, though quite exceptional, will not be to the liking of all vampire movie fans. It is the brainchild of quirky filmmaker Guy Maddin. Basically, Maddin has taken the ballet(!) "Dracula," performed by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and translated it to film, amplified and adapted, of course, along lines of his very unique surrealistic aesthetic.

I am a fan of all of the fine arts, but I must acknowledge that ballet is my least favorite of them all. But in Maddin's idiosyncratic production, anything other than the evocative rhythmic movements of the characters would diminish the impact of the movie. In addition, Maddin filmed it in "aged" black-and-white (punctuated, at times, by a vibrant and eye-popping crimson) silent films format with occasional captions. Furthermore, he utilizes many of the almost ancient "special effects" that the silent filming masters employed: vignetting, tinting for emphasizing certain themes, lightning fast shots, at times almost like still photos, etc. His homage to German Expressionism, especially the works of Murnau, Lang, Dreyer, etc., is clearly reflected both in his sets and in the ways in which the characters move about within these. Also, his accompanying soundtrack is derived from Gustav Mahler's 1st and 2nd Symphonies, and, believe it or not, the whole thing works!

Those who are not well-acquainted with the core elements of the Bram Stoker fable may have some difficulty following the unfolding vistas and scenarios that Maddin juxtaposes, at times, seemingly irrespective of time or space. But for Dracula aficionados, this stylistic device should not pose any problems. Following in the finest traditions of Frank Langella's Dracula, Maddin's Dracula (Wei-Qiang Zhang)is extraordinarily erotic and overpowering. Indeed, all of the actors/dancers who protrayed the various characters in the movie skillfully executed their roles with precision and credibility, even though, as is the case with silent filmmaking, the actors are obliged to "over-act" in order to convey the essence of whomever each one is portraying. What is especially captivating about this production is the overshadowing surrealistic, dreamlike feel.

I cannot recommend this film too highly. It would be a 3-thumbs way up, in my opinion, and worth 9 stars.