5 October 2014

From Gothic erotica to classical & modern hybridisation, the Dracula myth has been screened for so many times, each vision leaving me with a feeling of dissatisfaction. I'm a Romanian. I learnt about Vlad Tepes in school. I know some of the history that many prefer to ignore... and now, I happily find this film to be truthful, beautiful, inspiring in many ways and very poignant.

In a cinematic era of too many ridiculous, far-fetched heroes, an era of watered-down (again ridiculous) vampires, this new Dracula brings quality to the table (and, I hope, smashes all those fake gods). Moreover, the fantasy element was perfectly and honourably intertwined with the real story. There was something about the acting, the lighting, the emotions, about every scene... that felt just right - not underplayed and not overdone. Also, there was the right amount of cosmetisation.

[some spoilers ahead]

The wonderful costumes are spot-on (excepting the dragon armour - too much like a Comic Con thing for 15th century Transylvania and looking like painted plastic), along with Transylvanian landscapes and churches (the castle was superb, but nothing like Transylvanian architecture of any age. It was a lot like the Western Gothic cathedrals). The sins I mentioned are easily to forgive, though. Maybe one went a little too far: I am sure that Transylvanian peasant women had no smokey eye makeup back in that century!

I loved the scenes in the forest, by the river and those when Vlad and his family met the Turks. Everything felt so genuine - the acting, the landscape, the looks. I was so afraid they would turn Luke/Dracula in a sort of Marvel hero, which sadly happens to too many film characters these days, but that was not the case. It was all believable, which I find to be the number one quality of a good production. This was what I did not expect.

The artwork, banners, posters, trailer don't really do justice to this film. I had no high hopes, really. For some reason the mantled Dracula, transforming in a swarm of bats, felt like they were trying to sell something too modern and cheesy, not to mention the dragon armour! Thankfully I was wrong, everything flew so nicely and was perfectly immersive. I thought it would be all about some visual effects, skilled fights and a weak plot but nooo, my dear, it was rich, smart and sublime.

I loved how they integrated all the conflicts, all the fantasy elements to the main story. Nothing was out of place and that's difficult to do when you have such a story to begin with.

For example, when the old vampire tells Vlad he's got only 3 days to either resists the thirst and return to being human or drink blood and seal his fate as a vampire,  you think there will be a climax when he feels tempted to drink someone's blood. you don't expect that to happen a couple of times, then have the real climax when his own (dying) wife begs him to drink her blood. It's all unexpected and very clever. Also, there are no silly lines that hint at the coming plot developments.

Thanks to the addition of sultan Mehmet, it was delightful to be able to connect it with other deeds of this sultan, like the siege of Constantinople in the same century. The two events have many links connecting them and the siege is something I've been feverishly passionate about lately.

On to the other characters, I can't complain. The film is a short one and there are many twists and turns in the plot, many dramatic moments. Vlad's wife, Mirena, falls off a cliff, just like the legend says. I don't agree with those who consider her role to be so passive - she's actually very active, courageous, outspoken and gets to seal Vlad's fate. How isn't that a big thing?

Nevermind, let's talk about Luke Evans (Bard the bowman in The Hobbit, hooray!). He was BADASS and yeah, this word has been popping inside my head many times while watching. Finally, a Dracula who is hot but no ladies' man, who is a fierce warrior but not a torture-and-blood-addict. Also, the performance is good, natural, believable. Even more, Luke Evans has a soft warm voice that he uses very well here.

Ultimately, I understood why I loved this version so much. There's a good man and his good followers turning 'dark' (going BADASS) and fighting against the true evil. Throughout time, I've been deeply fascinated by things like "when angels go to war..." or "beware of the revenge of the innocent" or "when a good man goes to war..." - you know the rest. It's about that crushing power of the innocent ones, the good who were done wrong and are now retaliating instead of just taking s*it. Just like in The Equalizer, it's great to see the bad ones being shocked at the power and determination of the good guys.

Well done and thanks for doing what we, Romanians, have been unable to do: honouring our history and our praiseworthy ancestors, along with their impressive achievements!