Music / Ballet
Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary
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Dir: Guy Maddin
Star: Wei-Qiang Zhang, Tara Birtwhistle, Dave Moroni, Cindy Marie Small
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 2002
Format: DVD R0
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Is there really anybody out there who doesn't know the story of Dracula?!

Dracula: Pages from a Virgins Diary relates the very familiar story of a mysterious nocturnal interloper seducing / corrupting a young lady in Whitby by the name of Lucy Westenra (Tara Birtwhistle). His next would be victim is her best friend Mina Murray, whose estate agent fiance Jonathan Harker is in the employ of a Transylvanian count, Dracula (Wei-Qiang Zhang). Convinced that the Count is the perpetrator of these heinous acts, Van Helsing and Harker decide to stop him and his reign of terror, by driving a stake through his heart.

Before I start, we'd better get something straight. This isn't a horror film so don't expect one, this also isn't your usual run of the mill vampire flick so don't expect one of those or Bram Stoker's: Dracula either. This is in fact an inspired collaboration between popular Canadian director Guy Maddin, choreographer Mark Godden and the Winnipeg National Ballet. What they have done is adapted Mark Godden's charged stage production of Dracula and shot it with the unique eye of Maddin, who brings it to glorious, stylish and seductive life. The entire film is shot on black and white, affording the film a very aged texture and visually absorbing atmosphere. Various tints, hues and coloured filters are used in a very F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu) style to evoke mood and a feel of time, which brings a delightful feel to the piece. Technically the direction is excellent, and Maddin does very well bringing such a film as this to the screen. It has a wonderful feel to it and the use of 16mm, Super 8 and Bolex just adds more depth the production, you just don't see this sort of film making anymore.

As this is ballet, there is of course no dialogue, just ballet melodrama and some delightful and technical movement, which makes a refreshing change seeing something so beautifully constructed as this. The movement features some superb and well honed performances, most outstanding are of course Wei-Qiang Zhang as Dracula and Tara Birtwhistle as Lucy but a talented cast all put in some sterling performances. The movement itself is framed by some stirring classical symphonies by Gustav Mahler. Suggestion is rife and the prior heroes of the novel are depicted here to be narrow-minded bigots, and the females merely misunderstood, which brings a new angle to the piece. The story effectively cuts to the chase of the original text and embraces the more erotic aspects of Stoker's novel, which are brought to the fore thanks to the aesthetic movement of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. I should point out that this is a trimmed version (by some 40 minutes) of the original stage production, so some of the content you see on the trailers or may have seen performed on stage does not make it into the final cut of the film.

This really is 'ballet gothic', it is fabulous and enthralling. That said, this delightful and florid film is not going to appeal to everyone and may prove too much for some of the illiberal or un-cultured. Perhaps with this production being based on such a popular story it will encourage more people to watch ballet and why not when you have something like this to entice them. This is an artistic and innovative film, by making it in such an old style affords it a unique charm and brings a new feel to the old story as it does a lot of things differently and that is partly where this monochromatic masterpiece works so well.

Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD
Picture 1.33:1 Widescreen Not a bad transfer but the darks bleed a little in places
Audio Dolby Digital / DTS 5.1 Excellent soundtrack
Features good semi-animated menu
Directors commentary
The Making of Dracula - featurette
World Cinema Trailer Reel
CBC Arts report with Guy Maddin
4 Page booklet with Tom charity film notes
Guy Maddin radio interview
Vonnie Von Helmott Radio interview
Original TV Spots
Theatrical trailer
Verdict A Pretty good disc, nothing overly impressive but a decent set of extras nonetheless

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home