Bennie travels to Buenos Aires to find his long-missing older brother, a once-promising writer who is now a remnant of his former self. Bennie's discovery of his brother's near-finished play might hold the answer to understanding their shared past and renewing their bond.
Francis Ford Coppola
A writer with a declining career arrives in a small town as part of his book tour and gets caught up in a murder mystery involving a young girl. That night in a dream, he is approached by a... See full summary »
This version of Dracula is closely based on Bram Stoker's classic novel of the same name. A young lawyer (Jonathan Harker) is assigned to a gloomy village in the mists of eastern Europe. He is captured and imprisoned by the undead vampire Dracula, who travels to London, inspired by a photograph of Harker's betrothed, Mina Murray. In Britain, Dracula begins a reign of seduction and terror, draining the life from Mina's closest friend, Lucy Westenra. Lucy's friends gather together to try to drive Dracula away. Written by
Director Francis Ford Coppola was insistent that he didn't want to use any kind of elaborate special effects or computer trickery when making the movie. He initially was given a standard visual effects team, but they told him that the things he wanted to achieve were impossible without using modern digital technology. Coppola disagreed and fired them, replacing them with his 29 year old son Roman Coppola, who set about achieving some of the effects by using old-school cinematic trickery. A thorough exploration of these effects can be found on the 2007 Special Edition DVD in the In Camera: The Naïve Visual Effects of 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' (2007) featurette and in the 'Heart of Darkness' article from Cinefax magazine (also found on the DVD), but some of the most interesting examples include:
When sitting in the train on his way to Transylvania, Jonathan Harker is looking at a map which appears superimposed on his face. This was a live effect achieved simply by projecting the image of the map onto actor Keanu Reeves' face on set. - In the same scene, outside the window, Dracula's eyes mysteriously appear in the sky, watching Harker as he travels. This was achieved by combining three separate shots. First, the shot of Gary Oldman's eyes was done with him wearing special makeup so that only his eyes would be visible when the image was projected onto the sky backdrop. The next shot involved the projection of the eyes onto the backdrop of the Carpathian Mountain set, making it appear as if two eyes are appearing in the sky. Then, a shot was taken of Reeves sitting in the train with the combined background/eye shot rear-projected through the window.
Another shot in this sequence involves a close up of Harker's journal with the train appearing to travel along the top of the book, blowing smoke across the pages. This was a forced perspective shot using a huge book and a tiny miniature train model.
After arriving in Translyvania, Harker is met by Dracula's carriage and the driver seems to magically reach out and lift Harker into the carriage. This shot was achieved by having the rider (actually Oldman himself) sitting on a camera crane which reached out and brought him towards Reeves. At the same time, the camera was moved to the right, so it appeared as if the rider's hand wasn't actually stretching, but was simply defying physics. For the lift, Reeves himself was also standing on a fake floor, which was in fact a movable rostrum which raised him up into the carriage.
As the carriage approaches the castle, there is a shot of the castle in the background as the carriage speeds along a narrow driveway. This was achieved by painting the image of the castle onto a piece of glass, and then positioning the glass in front of the camera whilst the scene of the carriage was shot on the sound stage.
The scene when Harker is shaving and Dracula approaches him from behind without a reflection in the mirror was shot by a classic technique as old as cinema itself. The actor with his back to the camera is actually Reeves' double, not Reeves himself, and the 'mirror' is simply a hole in the wall, with the real Reeves standing on the other side in a portion of the set, thus when the hand touches the shoulder of the double there is no reflection to be seen because there is literally no mirror.
When Harker is exploring the castle, there is a shot of some rats walking on the ceiling upside-down whilst Reeves descends a staircase right-way-up. This was achieved by using a double exposure. First, the shot of the rats was done with the camera upside-down. Then the film was rewound and a matte box was placed in front of the lens so as to ensure only the correct portion of the image would be exposed. The camera was then turned right way up and the scene of Harker going down the stairs was shot. Due to the matte box, it appears as if the beam with the rats is above Reeves, and because it was shot upside-down, the rats appear to be defying gravity.
The first scenes in London after Dracula's arrival were shot with a real Pathé camera that was being hand cranked. It was also shot on a special Kodak stock to enhance the grain. There were no post-production effects added for this scene.
The scene when Dracula seems to magically catch Mina's bottle was shot by simply having two men and two bottles. On set Winona Ryder drops the bottle and Gary Oldman scoops down and catches it. The camera then pans up to reveal he is already holding it out to Mina seemingly without having raised his hand. In reality, the hand holding the bottle out is a double standing just behind Oldman, wearing identical gloves, and holding a completely different bottle.
For the scenes involving Dracula's POV, Francis Ford Coppola wanted to achieve something unusual, and it was ultimately decided to try to create something of staccato effect. These shots were created using an old piece of equipment called an intervalometer. When shooting at 24fps, an intervalometer trims the end of certain frames, and prevents the exposure of certain frames here and there, creating the 'jumpy' effect seen in the scene. Again, this was all accomplished in-camera, no post-production effects were added to the scenes.
As is the case with many of these latter-day horror movies, this is visually stunning. This one is particularly so, with beautiful colors, wild special effects, lavish sets and a handful of pretty women, led by Winona Ryder.
It isn't all beauty; there are some horrific, bloody moments in here. I've seen the film three times and the first two times was terrifying to me in parts. The last viewing wasn't as scary, but maybe I was distracted by seeing this on DVD for the first time, which enhanced the visuals and added some nice 5.1surround sound.
At two hours and 10 minutes, it's a bit long but there are very few lulls, if any. Gary Oldham gives his normal intense performance as Dracula and it never hurts to have Anthony Hopkins in the film.
The only negative I found was Keannu Reeves, who sounds a bit wooden in his lines. Is it my imagination, or is he a terrible actor? Maybe it's just his voice. Nonetheless, Cary Elwes, Richard Grant, Sadie Frost and Bill Campbell all give good support to this film which is a real feast for the senses.
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