4.5 Stars
Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 75 minutes
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Guy Maddin’s Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary takes us fantastically through gothic places that Bram Stoker failed to report in a production that is as sexually charged as it is beautifully designed.
Utilizing the music of Mahler’s first and second symphonies in non-linear fashion adds a layer of uncertainty and suspense that, like Christopher Nolan’s Memento suits this fantastical telling perfectly: A kind of Death in Transylvania.
Cinematically, all of the stops have been pulled: grainy framed back and white, sometimes sepia images fill the screen with style; blood-red highlights and slow-motion sequences produce a tableau on which the members of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet bring to life the storylines of failed lust and follow-the-cash—all of this delivered in classic silent movie methodology – complete with wry captions.
From Cinematographer Paul Suderman’s opening shot we become voyeurs peering through a supernatural window as the movement unfolds before us. The metaphor of fallen women and polluted blood abounds and Maddin misses no opportunity to exploit the notion of pure-male blood being “pumped” directly into Lucy’s “untouched” body or, on the other hand, denying Jonathan the fellatio he so desperately needs. All of this interpreted and accompanied by dancers whose legendary technique serves the plot rather than the “show.”
Zhang Wei-Qiang (above) in the title role is monstrously divine. No sexier vampire has come to the screen and it’s clear that the sub-text of size and prowess combine to seal his fate just as much as his moonlight munching. And, like Tybalt’s death in Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet, there is a tantalizing nipple shot seconds before his impotent competitors impale this Prince of Darkness only to leave his body and its thrusting mid-drift spear in a “victory-after-defeat” image on view. All they could score was the cash to satisfy their true lust.
There are many moments that repay subsequent viewing: the dance of the garlic-plumb fairies, Lucy’s decapitation à la Salomé (with a Foley rendering that demands an iron stomach), the terrific use of the star filter on the unison turns of the search party’s flashlight, and the rich symbolism of Mother-under-glass will linger in memory for a long time.
Maddin’s exceptional achievement should inspire others to take risks and challenge their audiences – if only more would have the courage to let the Art rather than the balance sheet lead their work.

Posted on September 17, 2004 in Reviews by

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