Guy Maddin's Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary [DVD] [2002]

As director Guy Maddin himself explains in one of the featurettes on the DVD release of Dracula, Pages From a Virgin's Diary, Bram Stoker's timeless novel of love and the undead has been filmed far too many times to justify yet another tired, formulaic retread without offering anything new. Of course, if there is a director with the inspired creativity to inject new life into the familiar tale, Maddin is indeed the man for the job -- as evidenced in Zeitgeist Video's fantastic release of this innovative and lavishly gothic film. Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, the lush black-and-white imagery that Maddin captures while spinning across the stage is staggering. Though some viewers may complain that the transfer is not anamorphic, the image is stable with little signs of artifacting or edge enhancement. The few glimpses of color -- appropriately crimson red -- that are seen in the film offer a great contrast to the monochromatic color scheme and really jump out at the viewer. Audio is presented in Dolby Digital Surround 2.0 and offers a great vehicle for Mahler's swelling symphony without giving way to any audible distortion or hiss. By now, everyone who is familiar with Maddin's work knows that there is little question he can shoot a stylish and visually seductive film, but what about the extras? Though, at one point during the audio commentary, Maddin apologizes for providing what he refers to as more of a "hockey play-by-play" than an actual commentary, the track is still an amusing and insightful peek into the visionary director's creative mindset. With technical talk generally limited to the amount of Vaseline he smeared on the lens to create a dream-like effect, fans may be disappointed that such an excessively stylized director virtually ignores the various visual techniques used; however, he always seems to have an interesting anecdote to offer and the commentary is never boring. A short behind-the-scenes featurette shot for CBC's Canada Now offers interviews with Maddin as well as producer Vonnie Von Helmolt and choreographer Mark Godden, with all involved showing great enthusiasm for the project and marked reverence for the source material. A video study on the production of the sets will certainly be of interest to theater lovers, as it offers extended footage of the sets in varying stages of construction -- and the option to view it with an overlying interview with Maddin from CBC Radio One offers the director speaking about how he connected the ballet version of the story to his love of silent films, among other interesting topics. An additional CBC Radio One interview with Von Helmolt finds the producer discussing the budget and artistic aspirations of the film while walking through the elaborate sets. The photo gallery rounds things out well by offering a nice variety of gorgeous black-and-white stills -- giving the viewer a chance to truly soak in the images that seem so fleeting within the context of the actual film.
$19.99
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Overview

Special Features

  • Audio commentary by director Guy Maddin
  • Behind-the-scenes television special featuring interviews with Maddin, producer Vonnie Von Helmolt and choreographer Mark Godden
  • Video piece on the construction of the sets
  • Radio interviews with Maddin and Von Helmolt
  • Extensive production photo gallery

Synopsis

Dracula, Pages From a Virgin's Diary
Idiosyncratic Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin resurrects the style and visual grammar of the silent cinema in this ambitious screen adaptation of the Royal Winnepeg Ballet's acclaimed dance production, which incorporates elements of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula and F.W. Murnau's film Nosferatu. In 1897, a strange and mysterious visitor from the East, Dracula (Zhang Wei-Qiang), arrives in London, and soon puts the wealthy and pleasure-loving Lucy (Tora Birtwhistle) under his spell. Dracula next sets his sights on the virginal Mina (Cindy Marie Small), but when the vampire's machinations begin to alter her personality, her fiancé, Jonathan (Johnny Wright), realizes something is very wrong, and vampire hunter Von Helsing (David Moroni) is brought in to slay the monster. Dracula, Pages From a Virgin's Diary was originally produced for Canadian television; after winning praise from a number of critics, the film was screened at a number of international film festivals before receiving a theatrical release in the United States. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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