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Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula, Yu-Ki, Bara No Konrei – Mayonaka ni Kawashita Yakusoku (Bridal of Rose – The Promise Exchanged at Midnight) (2001)

Your Daily Dracula, Yu-Ki, Bara No Konrei – Mayonaka ni Kawashita Yakusoku (Bridal of Rose – The Promise Exchanged at Midnight) (2001)

This is a feature-length music video by the Japanese flouncy shirt goth band Malice Mizer – (their particular sub-cultural style is called ‘visual kei’).  It has stretches which feel like Guy Maddin’s Dracula Pages From a Virgin’s Diary in that it’s a silent film with intertitles (in Japanese and English) and runs to some set-pieces which look as if they were filmed from a stage production, but it also mashes up elements from Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the Neil Jordan film of Interview With a Vampire.  As much fanfic as adaptation of Dracula, though it has a kind of odd, dreamy weirdness that isn’t unappealing.  The band members play characters in the film, but are always performing as themselves too – there’s a get-out clause that this might all be a reverie brought about by reading Bram Stoker while a Malice Mizer album plays, which does explain why the Regency era costumes also include platform shoes and everyone gets elaborate hairdos.

It opens with a scene that gets lazily replayed at the climax.  Protagonist Klaha (Klaha) is at the bedside of his fiancée Cecil (Terumi Nagayoshi), who is turning into a fanged vampire and has a priest and attendants binding her to a bed with crosses.  Enter the Earl of Dracula (Yu-ki), with frizzy curls and a Lugosi outfit, who kills the priest and attendants before fighting Klaha over the girl, whom he takes to be the reincarnation of his dead ‘virgin bride’.  It’s probably a coincidence, but this makes several adjustments to Stoker that follow what Murnau did in Nosferatu: the time period is put back to the late 18th/early 19th century (to allow for all those shirts, roses and horseriding scenes – keyed into a specific brand of Japanese Europhilia) and Lucy and Mina are combined into heroine Cecil (they might mean Cecile, but there are instances of cross-dressing and gender/ethnic fluidity/masquerade in the cast so the ambiguity might be deliberate).

In flashback, Klaha puts off his wedding to make Jonathan Harker’s trip to Transylvania, where he meets an older Dracula – with grey streaks in his curls – and fatally shows the vampire a locket with a picture of Cecil, apparently triggering the plot and persuading the Earl to buy a London residence.  With no Van Helsing, Dr Seward, Renfield or Demeter in sight, the other band members get their own Anne Rice type sub-plot to dovetail in with the usual Dracula story: Közi plays a nameless ‘Byronic vampire’ who gets in Dracula’s way and assists Klaha because England is his territory (there’s a germ of a literary idea here – in pop culture, Dracula displaced Lord Ruthven … so here the Byronic vampire resists being supplanted, but also represents the Lestat types who will later compete with Dracula as the prime image of vampirism) and Mana is a female vampire/satanic nun who owes the Earl a favour for saving her from being burned at the stake.  However, this is a film with situations rather than a plot so we never get much in the way of vampire-on-vampire conflict and any scene involving action looks like a no-contact run-through.  Characaters snarl or pout or look lovingly through long eyelashes but don’t really do anything much, while the same few tracks play over and over.  As Dracula-themed vanity film projects go, more interesting than those Killer Barbys movies.

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