Question 1: The reinterpretation of the main characters by director Francis Ford Coppola in Bram Stoker’s Dracula is most notable for the way in which it distinguishes the portrayal of Count Dracula from that in Nosferatu. While Count Orlock is a repulsive creature in every possible way, Gary Oldman’s Count Dracula is seductive in a courtly and aristocratic manner even in the early scenes as an ancient vampire. As a younger man, he is fully believable as a figure capable of seducing Mina Harker. (His ability to seduce Lucy, by contrast, seems within his grasp even in his older personal; Lucy is unusually slutty in this version). In fact, one of the flaws in the film may be somewhat attributable to far more charismatic imagining of Dracula in this version.

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By contrast, Jonathan Harker almost immediately loses any audience identification since it becomes increasingly more difficult to desire Mina’s getting back with such a boring man. This aspect cannot be entirely attributed to Gary Oldman’s truly captivating performance; the performance of Keanu Reeves is clearly the worst element of film. Indeed, one cannot help but cringe every time Harker comes back into play. Between wondering how often Harker’s British accent is going to disappear and reappear, that trademark deer-in-the-headlights acting style of Reeves serves only to increase the horror of the movie in a way not intended. The decision to tap into the obsessive-compulsive personality disorder which Van Helsing must obviously suffer is another high point of the film. What some may view at over the top acting by Hopkins actually serves to underscore that from the perspective of a skeptical outsider, Van Helsing must appear almost Trump-like in his exhibition of some sort of narcissistic mental disorder that drives his entire being.

Question 2:
The relationship between Dracula and the two women differs substantially from the book. The decision behind these divergences must be considered one of the less successful decisions made by Coppola for adaptation of the book into film. The film tries to create a logical connection for the Count Dracula to focus on the wife of the man who comes to sell him property abroad with the suggestion of reincarnation of his beloved when back when he was simply Vlad the Impaler. Stoker’s book does not include any particular connection between the vampire and Mina Harker—or any other woman or victim, for that matter—and so it seems as if the purpose of this additional relationship level is intended to provide a romantic underpinning to the story. Had Coppola merely cast an actual actor in the role of Harker rather than the mannequin that is Keanu Reeves, this would not have been necessary. Further undermining this decision is the lack of chemistry generated between Oldman Winona Ryder. Even more distressing is that Sadie Frost’s Lucy Westenra naturally seems more sensual than Ryder.

Recognizing this, perhaps, Coppola—for absolutely no discernable reason—removes Lucy Westenra from her repressive Victorian period and turns her into a 20th century promiscuous party girl. Ultimately, this proves to be the single greatest mistake of the filmmakers—aside from the casting of Reeves—precisely because so much effort went into the recreating the Victorian period by the artistic directors of the film. By plucking Lucy out of the late 1800s and tying Mina to the Middle Ages, the film loses the novel’s powerful value of the vampire as the Unrepressed Other coming to England from a foreign land to upset the repressive mindset of the Victorian age. Ultimately, the success of the film turns on the question: where is the Victorian Prudery that Count Dracula has come to overthrow? The reincarnated Mina belongs more to Dracula than Harker and Lucy has unleashed her repressed sexuality long before Dracula comes into the picture. The result is that Dracula doesn’t have that much to fight for and Van Helsing’s obsession to save the women is pointless.

  • Stoker, B. (2004). Dracula. New York: Bantam.