Monday, July 25, 2005

Dracula by Bram Stroker

It is one of the few epistolary novels that I have read. A epistolary novel is a novel that uses letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings and others to tell the story. Epistolary is derived from the word epistles or letters.

Another example of a epistolary novel is Pierre Choderlos de Laclos novel "Les Liasons Dangereuses" (Dangerous Liaisons) first published in 1782.

Both Dracula and Dangerous Liaisons have been re-interpreted in cinema. The movie Dangerous Liaisons was critically accliamed and starred Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer and Keannu Reeves. The tale was re-interpreted in Sarah Michelle Gellar , Ryan Philippe, and Reese Witherspoon's movie "Cruel Intentions". While the story of Bram Stroker's Dracula has seen several cinematic interpretations through the years. Starting with FW Murnau's "Nosferatu". Unable to get rights to Bram Stroker's work Murnau simply did some changes to the story, one of them involved the changing of the name from Count Dracula to Count Orlok.

Dracula of course was not the first Vampire fiction. There was of course Dr John William Polidori's The Vampyre, published April 1819. The origin of this story came out of an idea of Lord Byron, who suggested on a June night, after he and his guests (which included the Percy Shelley, Mary Wolfstonecraft Shelley, Claire Clairmont and Polidori) was reading aloud from the Tales of the Dead, that they write a ghost story. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein while Byron wrote and abandoned a fragment of the story that became the basis of The Vampyre. Polidori's main character was a vampire called Lorth Ruthven, loosely based on Lord Byron himself.

There is also the James Malcom Rymer's (or was it Thomas Preskett Prest's) story of Varney the Vampire or the Feast of Blood.

Bram Stroker's Dracula though is still popular up to the present. The actors essaying the roles have become icons. Bela Lugosi's is the archetypal Dracula with the cape and the accent while Chrisopher Lee has became the visceral and sexual representation of Count Dracula.

Despite the movie and the different spin-offs including the film Blackula: Dracula's Soul Brother, how can you not enjoy this movie? Dracula's soul brother. The original story can stand on its own.

The epistolary style provides the reader with the different views of the situation from Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker and Dr Van Helsing writings. Fresh blood is injected to the story as news clippings and notes from other characters are added.

Reading Bram Stroker's Dracula is similar to doing retrospective search. As if you are taken back in time to conduct an investigation of the whole affair. The journal entries, letters and news clipping gives the reader a genuine and up-close feel for the horror.


Anonymous Carl said...

Though Lugosi's take on the character is slightly different from the original book (more refined and seductive) I don't think it takes anything away from the majesty of Dracula and Lugosi makes the Count far more appealing

2:31 AM  
Blogger juned said...

I have learned to separate the book from the movie adaptations. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Lugosi's take on Dracula was probably due more to its origin on the play, which starred in. Theatrical but effective. Lee's Dracula more driven by the cinematic techniques at that time, more visual, use of mood music and sound effect. Thus we do not see him speak often. Each can stand on its own. I do favour the book still because of multi-layered way it tells the story.

7:08 AM  

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