Over the years there have been many interesting interpretations and appropriations of the vampire mythology (see “Martin” (1978) for instance), but very few of them have been ballets. Canadian director Guy Maddin’s version is. Other films have updated Bram Stoker original tale for the modern day, Maddin’s 2002 “Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary” adapts the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s version of the popular story for an audience of the past. Specifically, a silent era audience.
After a credit sequence of faces superimposed onto antique frames, the film kicks off with a faux-alarmist series of intertitles lamenting the “invasion” of Britain from the East. “Immigrants! Others, from Other Lands!” With typical Maddin absurdity, his vampire tale masquerades as a metaphor for xenophobia, a sentiment not treated with much seriousness by the director, but granting the film an impression of subtextual hysteria.
[Image: Evil blood, of course, represents the oozing encroachment of Oriental/occult influence.]
Lucy Westernra (subtle) is the first of Dracula’s victims. Her newfound reckless behavior manifests itself at a ballroom dance where she playfully rejects three suitors in favor of Renfield (an asylum patient who eats bugs) while swinging on a suspended chair. After biting her fiancé and collapsing from illness, Dr. Van Helsing is called in and you can guess his diagnosis.
Fans of Maddin, ballet or vampires should definitely see this film. For others it will probably be more of an interesting artistic oddity (a fever dream according to the film) than an entertaining or enlightening experience. It gave me a much-needed dose of one of my favorite directors, almost enough to cure the sorrow at finding out Maddin’s latest work, “Brand Upon the Brain” (May 2007), will not be coming to any theaters in Kansas or Missouri.
Walrus Rating: 7