directed by Guy Maddin
Canada 2003

 

The ballet as a silent movie with an orchestra. I'd never thought of it that way before. The dancers embody the characters, express emotion with their bodies and faces, try to translate feeling and speech into physical movement. They are borne up on the wings of the music. Gay Maddin's "Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary" uses (and improvises on, and kids, and abuses) the style of silent films to record a production of "Dracula" by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The film is poetic and erotic, creepy and melodramatic, overwrought and sometimes mocking, as if F. W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" (1922) had a long-lost musical version.

The director is Guy Maddin, who lives in Winnipeg, and is Canada's poet laureate of cinematic weirdness. His films often look as if the silent era had continued right on into today's ironic stylistic drolleries; he made a 2000 short named "The Heart of the World" that got more applause than most of the films it preceded at the Toronto film festival. Imagine "Metropolis" in hyderdrive.

In "Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary," he begins with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's stage production of "Dracula," choreographed and produced by Mark Godden, and takes it through a series of transformations into something that looks a lot like a silent film but feels like avant-garde theater. The music is by Mahler (the first and second symphonies), the visuals include all the favorite devices of the silent period (wipes, iris shots, soft framing, intertitles, tinting), and the effect is--well, surprisingly effective. The emphasis is on the erotic mystery surrounding Dracula, and the film underlines the curious impression we sometimes have in vampire films that the victims experience orgasm as the fangs sink in.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert's review in the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE

Theatrical Release: Canada, February 2002 (TV premiere)

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DVD Review: Zeitgeist Video - Region 1 - NTSC

Thanks to Mark Balson for the Review!

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Distribution

Zeitgeist Video

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:14:33
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.23 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Zeitgeist Video

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterboxed - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by director Guy Maddin
• Behind-the-scenes television special featuring interviews with Maddin, producer and choreopgrapher
• Video piece on the construction of the sets
• Radio interviews with Maddin and Von Helmolt
• Extensive production photo gallery

DVD Release Date: May 18, 2004
Clear Keep Case

Chapters 13

Comments Inside and out this DVD is very nicely done. Everything from the packaging to the menus re-enforce the gothic feel and style of the film. Zeitgeist has put together a solid release with which Madden fans should be pleased. With this being a Guy Maddin film the usual primitive filming methods are expected and encouraged. The transfer holds fairly tight and exhibits some natural film grain. The widescreen image is not anamorphic but it still looks marvelous, especially when compared to other Maddin films on DVD. The DVD is single-layered(DVD5) which one might think is a problem considering the presence of a commentary and some excellent extras. The film however is short enough that compression is not an issue. The stereo score is nicely recorded and sounds wonderful when paired with Maddin's stunning imagery. This is one of Maddin's best works and I am pleased to see him keeping with his signature style while branching out into ballet a little. I give this DVD  out of  losing a 1/2 point because of the lack of anamorphic enhancement.

[This DVD (as well as every other Maddin film on DVD that I own) exhibits a form of ghosting that I cannot explain. It doesn't make sense that it would be the result of a PAL>NTSC conversion because these films are not available anywhere else in the world. Also, they all originate from within North America. It may be the result of Maddin using various film stocks, such as Super8 and 16mm, although I am not positive that this is a valid explanation]

 - Mark Balson

 





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