Differences in the Novel Dracula and the 1992 Movie
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Film Studies 578, May 1998
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version of Dracula varied from Bram Stoker’s novel in one key aspect. The film focused on the history behind Dracula and his inspiration Vlad Tepes. The movie shifts away from pure horror to explore the idea of eternal love with the new knowledge of Vlad’s lost love. While Stoker did base his character on the historical leader, he never took the time to explain how or why Vlad Dracula became a vampire. The film does keep the basic themes of the novel, including religion, sexuality and the Gothic sense of the beauty in the darkness, but where the novel left Coppola takes over.
The difference can be seen at the very opening of the movie. It opens with Van Helsing narrating Vlad Dracula’s history. It shows the young Prince Vlad going out into the battlefield to fight the vicious Turks. Elizabeth, Vlad’s love, is introduced. When she receives a false note informing her of her love Vlad’s death, she leaps from a window. He returns safely from battle to find her dead. She committed suicide to be with him in death when he was tragically still alive. When the priest tells him that her soul cannot be saved, Vlad renounces the very God that he had been defending. It is then that he drinks the blood pouring from the cross and declares that the blood will be his life. From that day forward he must continue to drink human blood or die.
Then the movie goes to where the book begins, with Harker’s journey to see Count Dracula. The movie keeps pretty close to the plot of the book until Mina sees Dracula in London. In the novel it is only a brief sentence in Mina’s journal. “The light of the mood struck a half-reclining figure, snowy white” (88). The film has them engage in a long conversation and then go to the cinema house. The scenes of Dracula and Mina at diner are there to show that Mina is somehow Elizabeth and that their love has continued on past death. Dracula recognizes her as his lost love and wants to be with her again. The love and passion between Mina and Dracula are barely even hinted at in the novel. Stoker suggests that there is some attraction, but it is not fully explored.
Mina goes to marry Harker, who has finally escaped the castle. In the novel their marriage gets one paragraph of description (154). In the film Coppola over lays Lucy’s death with the marriage ceremony. This makes it appears as if Lucy’s death is the result of the pain and anger Dracula suffers at the loss of his Elizabeth once again. This overlapping reinforces the idea of the undying love between Mina and Dracula.
The theme of eternal love continues in the scene where Dracula comes to visit Mina in the bedroom. In the novel it is much more brutal of a scene. Harker is laying in bed next to his wife while Dracula conducts his seduction. Dracula is not gentle with Mina in the novel. He tells her, “Silence! If you make a sound I shall take him [Harker] and dash his brains out before your very eyes” (251). In the film, Dracula is coming to see his lost love and claim her. Harker is out hunting Dracula with the other men and now where to be seen. Mina becomes much more of a willing victim as Dracula kisses her sweetly. Though Mina seems scared, she is also overwhelmed with emotions from the past. She wants to be with him. After she drinks his blood the men come rushing in to save her, whether or not wants to be saved.
The story comes full circle in both the novel and the film, but in slightly different ways. In the end of the novel Harker kills Dracula and all is well. Harker does slice Dracula’s throat in both, but it is Mina in the film that must set him free of his eternal damnation. He has found his lost love and she must release him. Dracula finds peace at last. There is more a sense of forgiveness and regeneration in the film than the book. The novel ends with the death and destruction of the darkness embodied in Dracula.
The film is somewhat problematic because Coppola took the liberty of adding further interpretation. Because this interpretation did not stray too far from the original themes, it did not take away from the spirit of the book too much. Coppola’s 1992 film is more true to the novel than any other film made. Staying pretty true to the plot made the film much more complex and enjoyable.