My notes on Dreaming Dracula (2014)
In a frame-setting prologue, a school/college drama group talk about staging Dracula. The lead actress (Carla Dondera) isn’t happy with the script and opts to do some research, watching Francis Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula on a computer monitor and then pulling out Stoker’s novel (which she seems to read backwards) before falling asleep and dreaming the rest of the film, which is a handsome, if minimalist retelling (in German) of the old, old story and admits in its end credits that it’s based more on Coppola’s film (ie: James V. Hart’s script) than the Stoker text. The main reason for the set-up seems to be that director Alexander Korjagin (who also plays Jonathan Harker) and screenwriter/producer Holger Wiek only had young actors available to them – Dracula (Sandro Franken) does have a few scenes in stagey (deliberately?) old age makeup, but everyone else is remarkably fresh-faced and even Dr Van Helsing (Simon Klinkertz, also the cinematographer) looks to be about 23.
It uses pans over maps for the travel/chase scenes and the dreamer thoughtfully dreams place and date captions to specify that (impressive) German mansions and castles and forests are in Transylvania or London. There must be several layers of dreaming involved, because the actress who dreams she’s Mina also dreams that Mina – and other characters – dreams, has fantasies and get a bit delirious about what’s actually going on. From the Coppola, it takes a medieval prologue involving the dead wife and cursing God to explain the transformation of Prince Vlad into apparently the first vampire (I always wondered whether Hart got this from the Jamie Gillis porn film Dracula Exotica) and Mina’s tender feelings for the Count she gets to euthanase at the end, plus a silly footnoting bit about absinthe.
Actually, the film comes to life when it gets away from its sources and is modestly innovative. In a plot modification so good I wonder why it’s not been done more often, this Dracula brings his wives (Madeleine Zohlen, Anna Beust, Melanie Küppers, Lena Schumacher) – yes, there are four of them – to England and has them serve as footsoldiers, even replacing Stoker’s undercharacterised gypsy minions in the climactic fight with Jonathan and Lucy’s three suitors – Timm Flessgarten as Quincy, Sebastian van de Weyer as Dr Seward, Philipp Aretz as Lord Arthur. This might have been down to an issue, which isn’t uncommon among youth drama groups, of having to rejig the script to provide more and better roles for women, but it’s effective and allows for the film’s rare moments of action. For a version of the famous horror story, it’s rather chaste – pretty girls in period frocks – and light on the blood capsules.
Mostly, it’s gloom and worry in period interiors – not quite as Lucy-focused as the recent Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing, but similarly intent on that stretch of the plot, with Lucy (Franziska Krebber) having the most defined arc (though that cuts against the whole search for reincarnated lost love bit with Mina). Franken’s Count seems to owe more to Robert Pattinson than Gary Oldman, with quite a bit of soulful brooding and occasional bursts of fury. Though the film is in German, the title and the credits are in English.
The whole film is on Youtube
As is a feature-length making-of …
Here’s a trailer …
Oh, the same crowd have made an Elisabeth Bathory too …
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