You’d be forgiven for assuming that a film with the title Bram Stoker’s Dracula might be a faithful adaptation of the 1897 novel. However, there are a number of significant differences, too many to describe here.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola with a screenplay by James V Hart, the film boasts Gary Oldman as Count Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina, Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker, Sadie Frost as Lucy Westenra, Anthony Hopkins as Professor Van Helsing, Tom Waits as Renfield and Richard E Grant as Dr Seward. Despite this interesting cast, the film failed to entertain or scare me in any way.
The most noticeable change is the character of Dracula himself. He’s not evil. He’s grieving for his wife, to whom Mina bears a striking resemblance. He seduces her in London while Jonathan is trapped in the Transylvania castle. The film ramps up the eroticism and gets rid of the ‘pure woman’ theme. Keanu Reeves’ famously wooden style of acting does him no favours here (he doesn’t seem at all upset to see his wife Mina drinking Dracula’s blood). Anthony Hopkins portrays the genial fatherly figure of Van Helsing as a creepy weirdo without any sensitivity to women’s feelings. Although Gary Oldman’s performance is undoubtedly a passionate effort, he just didn’t seem like Dracula to me. He needed to be more sinister and less broodingly romantic.
There are a few minor things I could praise. The settings are in keeping with the time period (although it’s disappointing not to have included Whitby). The costumes are luscious. Richard E Grant and Tom Waits are good. Some of the erotic sequences are arty. There’s some faithfulness to the narrative concept of the novel, which is told through letters, diaries, notes and phonograph records.
I’d rather read Dracula several more times than watch this film again.
Low-resolution film poster sourced from Wikipedia.