Bram Stoker’s Dracula had all the necessary requirements for a masterpiece: legendary director Francis Ford Coppola at the helm of the project, a talented ensemble cast, Wojciech Kila to compose the score, Michael Ballus as cinematographer – but still manages to fall short of expectations. Dracula may not have turned out like the masterpiece it was intended to be, but there is still something fascinating about Coppola’s turn at Stoker’s classic horror story.
Despite a somewhat lukewarm reaction from critics, it is hard to deny the sheer visual joy of Dracula, the brooding tragedy of the opening scene is such a powerful and memorable experience. After a particularly brutal and gore-soaked battle, the weary Count Dracula returns to his castle to find his beloved wife Elisabeta dead before his eyes, having killed herself under the false belief he had died in battle. Now in a fit of rage and sorrow, he renounces his faith and thrusts his blade into a cross as blood weeps from the wound. The opening scene is just one of the few flashes of brilliance that Coppola brings to the screen and there are certain images that have stayed with audiences, who can forget the elderly, androgynous Dracula that Harker first meets?
Sadly, most elements of the film aside from the astounding visuals fall flat, the script is quite messy and the plot becomes far more cumbersome than it needs to be. Oldman makes for a fantastic Dracula, both as the frail anaemic ancient form to the dashing, youthful figure who terrorises London. Unfortunately, the central performance by Keanu Reeves is quite an embarrassment by all means, his turn as Jonathan Harker has been lampooned in pretty much every film publication known to man and his accent has become a staple in ‘worst movie accents ever’ lists. It’s a shame, he’s a talented performer but he was terribly miscast in this film – you really can’t forgive this mistake.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula still lives on as a cult film but it is a shame that many have written it off as a cinematic dud, a shining example of 90’s excess and the over-indulgence of an auteur director. There is something old-fashioned and comforting about Coppola’s film, a sight for sore eyes for anyone looking for a vampire tale without CGI and far from the shadow left behind by Twilight.
A failure but not one without merit (The song by Annie Lennox is great!).
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is on Film4 at 11:05 PM on Wednesday 2nd March