A figure of myth and awe the persona of Dracula always commands attention and sends imaginations flowing. While interpretations of Dracula may vary, some just destroy the mystique and allure of the character altogether. Coppolas’ film depicts Dracula as an irrational, erratic, love torn teenager whose lack of tact and control is instrumental in causing his own demise. This depiction of this figure falls far short of the diabolically deceptive, ancient and complex entity that terrifies and orchestrates the death of many in Bram stokers’ novel.
In Coppolas film, Dracula is very forceful and direct leaving almost nothing to the imagination. He repeatedly lashes out like an overemotional child; one way was by assaulting Harker with a sword within the first five minutes of having a conversation with him, apparently upset about how Jonathan was speaking of his heritage. Dracula goes as far as to gloat in Jonathans’ face by laughing at him after he is victimized by Draculas’ brides. Later in the film Dracula again exhibits his might in a vulgar display by flinging Lord Godalming and Quincey around then bursting in Lucy’s’ room while in wolf form and finishes the job he started on her. All these instances serve to paint Dracula as a mindless movie monster who is ravaging the town with no aim or reason but to kill.
Dracula in the novel is subtle and complex he never makes a move he hasn’t thought out and doesn’t lash out without proper reasoning. His time with Jonathan Harker was akin to the time a spider spends with a fly. Dracula slowly and quietly lures Jonathan in and gives little reason for his guest to ever doubt his generosity. For example, Dracula tells Jonathan early in his visit “You may go anywhere you wish in the castle, except where the doors are locked…” (21) This comment tricks and lulls Jonathan into a false sense of security because he isn’t being hindered in anyway and only Dracula knows that “all” the doors are locked and that Jonathan is already a prisoner. During Dracula’s time in London he was hard to track down and continued to feed on his initial victim in Lucy; without being seen, let alone having to result to flexing his power to get what he wanted. The novel gives the impression that Dracula is cunning beyond the years of the other characters; also he is here to stay and by the time anyone figures out what’s going on it will be too late.
The film goes on to paint Dracula as a love obsessed teenager, a conqueror who turns his back on his very beliefs and even god himself because his wife commits suicide in his absence; because of a misunderstanding. He saw Mina in the market place and she is the spitting image of his deceased wife and fell head-over-heels in love with her and began to date and woo her. When Mina returns to Jonathan to get married and leaves Dracula alone he reacts by slipping into a love sick rage and goes after Lucy and finishes killing her. These points in the movie lead to Dracula and Mina to the asylum dedicating their eternal love to one another; however, Dracula denies Mina at first because he feels that he is a monster and doesn’t want to change her into one also. He eventually gives into her persistence to be “one” with him and lets her drink his blood. By having Dracula chase this woman and being infatuated to the point that he forgets about his own safety and plans; shows him to be shortsighted and immature. The way he continues to lash out with no fore thought is one of the reasons he falls into a downward spiral that leads to his eventual demise.
Bram Stoker hints at the fact that Dracula may be lonely and the reader at times may be able to be slightly sympathetic towards him. He declares, “Yes I too can love; you yourself can tell it from the past…” (39) when his three brides accuse him of being unable to. The way he feeds on his victims also gives way to feelings that this being is looking to be closer to someone since all his methods are sensual in one way another (biting on the neck, forcing blood to be drank form his nipple, etc). In the book, spite and pride fuel Dracula’s downfall; he goes after Mina directly to hurt the men who would, “…play your brains against mine.”(287)Having done this, when he is cornered once again by the men he promises, “My revenge has just begun…” (306) and then flees to gain more time to do exactly that. The way Dracula lashes out in the novel is to gain what the men hold most dear (Mina) and pervert it to his owns designs. His pride doesn’t allow him to leave without striking a blow at the men and this becomes one of the means to his downfall; as he gives them the tool (Mina) needed to track him down.
Films can never convey or express exactly what a books intention or meaning is; they can however follow story and plot points leading to show the novelist’ work as the directors’ interpretation. Coppola took it on himself to provide story points that he thought would enhance and enrich the characters of Stokers novel. This attempt doesn’t begin to approach successful as it systematically destroys all relation to the book from the beginning title to the end credits. Instead of improving the roles he shattered all the characters personalities and uniqueness one by one. He turned a Horror novel into a love film by turning its main character into something that diminishes the idea of the ageless, mysterious and legendary icon that is “Dracula”.
by Marcel Braggs