Over the years the Dracula myth has proved as impossible to lay to rest as the neck-nipping Count himself. Ever since Bram Stoker's novel was published in 1897, the story of Transylvania's most infamous son has been retold countless times. In the Count's latest and most arthouse outing, Dracula: Pages From A Virgin's Diary, avant-garde Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin brings the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's stage production of the tale to the screen.
Somewhat inaccurately described by an intrepid American reviewer as Thriller crossed with Vampyr (now that would be a movie!), this dialogue-free film may not have the crowd-pulling appeal that such hype suggests, but it's certainly aimed more at serious horror buffs than ballet lovers.
Styling the action in terms of silent cinema - in particular German Expressionist films such as Vampyr, The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu - Maddin creates a loving pastiche of old horror movies. Even down to the monochrome cinematography, he mimicks the fuzzy-edged quaintness of early cinema.
"BOLD, LUSCIOUS AND OCCASIONALLY BEAUTIFUL"
Bold, luscious and occasionally beautiful, it's also a perceptive use of movement in highlighting the central themes of Stoker's novel. The eroticised dance perfectly captures the sexual undercurrents of the original vampire myth. Downplaying those elements of the story that aren't important to his project (Harker's escapades in Castle Dracula are told in a quick flashback, for example), Maddin hones the novel's sexual anxieties until they're as sharp as the tip of a wooden stake.
It gives this self-conscious, self-aware take on Dracula a subtle efficiency as the overly-familiar plot is jettisoned in favour of a film that's more interested in interrogating the myth rather than simply retelling it. It will no doubt leave ballet fans somewhat nonplussed, but this evocative danse macabre is an unusually insightful addition to the Count's long list of cinematic appearances.