Dracula Essay, Research Paper
Stoker v.s Coppola
Where there is no imagination there is no horror. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Imagination is the force that keeps human desires alive. It is a state that allows someone to give up repression and indulge into temptation. Where the conscious mind is a state of composed and rational behaviour, imagination becomes the unconscious setting into a world of countless fantasies where one does not need to worry about the consequences. However, civilization is built on the fact that we are able to repress what we crave. All is held back for the good of society and in an instant, the battle between good and evil is created. The novel and movie Dracula exemplifies this conflict well. The story enables the audience to envision the repressed and forbidding nature of the horror genre. But here lies the dilemma, which version of the Dracula story better incorporates this conflict between good and evil, desire and the need for repression? Is it Bram Stoker s novel or Coppola s film? Let the exploration begin.
First of all, a great aspect of the Stoker version was the fact that the author wrote Dracula using profound imagery. Stoker pays a great deal of attention to every detail, minute as it may seem. An example of this would be when Stoker describes the castle as:
“Built on the corner of a great rock, so that on three sides it was quite impregnable, and great windows were placed here where sling, or bow, or culverin could not reach, and consequently light and comfort, impossible to a position which had to be guarded, were secured” (p.36).
This example enables the reader s imagination to overflow. The detailed description of the castle leaves the audience wondering what atrocities lie ahead in the building. Due to the vast and precise nature of the dialogue, the depiction of the castle can be seen as a forewarning element. In doing so, Stoker brings forth an atmosphere of suspense which embodies the horror genre. The castle, being described as being an impregnable fortress, foreshadows Jonathan’s future life, because if the castle lives up to its description, the reader is lead to believe that he will meet his doom. The fact that Stoker uses imagery and foreshadowing to compliment each other assures the reader that there is never a dull moment. The tale is so horrific that it could be closely considered as reality. Stoker seems to tie all of the elements that create horror and suspense together. He does not over expose the reader to simply people dying. He entices them to read further and experience the real terror of Count Dracula, leaving the readers imagination to run wild.
Secondly, in comparing with Coppola s film, the one thing his movie lacks is a narrative element with a coherent plot. There is no story we can follow well enough to care about. There is a chronology of events, as the characters travel back and forth from London to Transylvania, and rendez-vous in bedrooms and graveyards. However, Coppola seems to be more concerned with spectacle and set-pieces, rather than with storytelling. The movie is particularly fixed in the way it prefers climaxes to continuity. By including the love saga between Mina and Dracula, Coppola diminishes the frightful and intimidating nature of the title character. By doing so, he paints a clear cut image of Dracula. We clearly see why Dracula has become what he is, thus implying how the audience is suppose to feel. In Stoker s novel, there exists no love element between Dracula and any other character. This clearly is more enticing to the reader because we are not set to conclude the nature of Dracula s being. Everything is left to the imagination, and the element of mystery adds to the horror of the novel, for people in general are very frightful of the unknown. By pursuing major scenes to a concluded extent, Coppola has already painted in the audience s mind the way they should react.
Another example of this can be seen in the scene between Lucy and Dracula. From the arrival of Dracula, to biting the neck of his victim, the scene is already visually painted and there exists no other element to surprise the viewer. The best way to compare this is by looking at Dracula (1931), featuring Bela Lugosi. In the scene, Dracula s arrival includes a climax at which leaves the viewer at an uneasy state. Dracula s biting of Lucy s neck is cut short and the audience is left to figure out what had happened. The element of surprise truly leaves the viewer captivated. Evil is looming. This tone of surprise exists as well in the novel. The detailed nature of Stoker s version creates a sense of mystery crucial to a suspense novel, as the book becomes a kind of puzzle that both the reader and the characters themselves must fit together, in order to understand unbelievable events. In contrast, in Coppola s film, the story is pursued with a fixed climax. Nothing is left to the imagination.
Third of all, another aspect to look at would be the manner in which the female characters are portrayed. In the novel version of Dracula, Stoker mirrors the spiritual side of the women by contrasting it with unholy and wicked conduct. A good example of this would be with the character of Lucy Westenra. After her blood has been drained several times by the Count, she finally dies on September 20th. An article in the Westminster Gazette dated September 25th reads:
During the past two or three days several cases have occurred of young children
straying from home or neglecting to return from their playing on the Heath. In
all these cases the children were too young to give any properly intelligible
account of themselves, but the consensus of their excuses is that they had been
with a bloofer lady Some of the children, indeed all who have been missed
at night, have been slightly torn or wounded in the throat (p.229).
The reader can easily deduct that the bloofer lady is Lucy Westenra. The fact that Lucy goes out and harms these children gives the reader a sense of pure terror and malevolence, because she was once a character seemingly pure and innocent. What is so brilliant about Stoker s writing is the fact that he portrays the explicit nature of repression. Stoker destroys the wholesome side of women and brings out what is carnal and unspiritual. Once a model of modesty before her death and transformation, Lucy becomes after death a figure of sexual desire. In contrast, in Coppola s version, Lucy was a model of condescension. She was already a sexually explicit character from the beginning, making it hard for the audience to feel any sort of dread when she dies. Her resurrected character acts in the same way as when she was alive, leaving the audience having to witness the rebirth of a hated character.
In conclusion, as Joseph De Maistre once put it:
Man is so muddled, so dependent on the things immediately before his eyes, that every day even the most submissive believer can be seen to risk the torments of the afterlife for the smallest pleasure.
Horror, as a genre, is suppose to embody the conflict between unconscious desires and the demands of society. By comparing Stoker s version of Dracula with Coppola s, it s easy to notice which of the two better portrayed this theme. By creating a lead character, one whom openly acted upon his temptations and let his desires run rampant, Stoker s Dracula was a figure of pure mystery and dread. It lead the audience to wonder about the horrific nature of his actions. It truly created the emotions associated with the horror genre. In contrast, Coppola s film was pursued with a fixed climax, where nothing was left to the imagination. By pursuing the love story between Mina and Dracula, Coppola shies away from the horror genre and creates a story of tragedy. As Richard Dyer put it: The narrative devices used ostensibly keep the vampire at a distance.
Stoker, Bram. Dracula. New York: Penguin Books, 1993.
Bram Stoker s Dracula. Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Perf. Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder, 1992. Videocassette. Warner, 1992.
Quotes to inspire you. : http://www.cybernation.com/victory/quotations/subjects.html
Dracula, fact and fiction :