Interview: Underground Cinema Film Festival: Dacre Stoker, great grand-nephew of Bram Stoker

Listen to them - children of the night. What music they make

Carmen Bryce was able to suck some blood from Dacre Stoker, great grand-nephew of Bram Stoker and author of Dracula: The Un-Dead and The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker, the Dublin Years, who is appearing at the dead of night at the Underground Cinema Film Festival which is currently taking bloody place in Dun Laoghaire from 13th-16th September.

Q- How are you involved in this year’s Underground Film Festival?

A – I’m at the festival to give a bit of background to this amazing story Bram Stoker wrote with Dracula and the mysteries behind the story. Screening at the festival is the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola adaptation of Dracula written by James Heart, which I will be introducing. In my opinion, and many others, Coppola’s version is a really close adaptation, with a few twists of its own, of Bram’s novel. It’s been a very difficult novel to adapt into a movie as it was written in the epistolary style but Coppola did a great job in achieving this. I will also be introducing James Heart with a Skype link from New York. He will be talking about how and why he wrote the screenplay the way he did.

Q – Dracula is perhaps the most famous horror figure ever created. Can you explain the longevity of Stoker’s story and our fascination with his monster?

A- The story of Dracula is immortal itself. Even today, the modern vampire craze shows that the myth of Dracula is still very much alive today. Ironically, the novel wasn’t instantly classified as a classic and it wasn’t until the 1970s that the public recognised it as one. One of the reasons the story has stood the time is that it’s a story that can be interpreted on many different levels. It can be viewed as a portal into Victorian society and all the issues they were dealing with – women’s rights, sexuality, modern technology. The one theme that I personally feel is prevalent is immortality. The story revolves around a creature that is immortal and every person at one stage ponders their own immortality, it’s an alluring subject. It makes the creature of Dracula and the story, endlessly exciting. Dracula is a complex character. He longs at times for a human connection. At times he is repulsed by who he is and what he is and yet other times he embraces and flaunts it. He’s not just a monster. He was a romantic but he was also a survivor, a brutal predator. This complexity cannot be solved and therefore continues to be examined and re-defined by various directors, producers and writers.

Carmen Bryce

James Heart Skype call, Saturday, 15th September, 5pm, Laurel Suite, the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire.

20th Anniversary Screening of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, introduced by Dacre Stoker, Saturday, 15th September, 8.15pm, Martello Suite, Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire.

The Underground Cinema Film Festival (UCFF) in Dun Laoghaire celebrates the best of Irish Independent Cinema screening a selection of some of the best short  and feature films made by Irish independent filmmakers. The festival takes place 13th-16th September.

Click here for the festival’s full schedule

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Bram Stoker’s 'Dracula' On Screen Weekend

Lydia O’Connor reports on the Dracula-fest that took place 17–19 April in the Irish Film Institute, Dublin.

Nosferatu
Nosferatu
Blacula
Blacula

The Irish Film Institute, in participation with the Dublin City Public Libraries annual One City, One Book event, celebrated Bram Stoker’s Dracula with an extraordinary weekend of Dracula on film. Dracula appeared on the IFI’s screens in iconic wisps of nostalgic imagery, from the F.W. Murnau Nosferatu (1922) to William Crain’s Blaxploitation film Blacula (1972). The contrast of films from Tod Browning’s Universal Pictures Dracula in 1931 (with Bela Lugosi as the quintessential Count Dracula) to Peter Sasdy’s Countess Dracula (1971), to the 2008 Twilight, by merit of choice and juxtaposition, proved a strong thesis for the development and evolution of Dracula as a screen character and the effect of these films on the perception and popularity of Bram Stoker’s now classic novel.

In keeping with the IFI’s mission to promote film culture through education, screening introductions, a splendidly informative expert panel discussion, and a lecture provided by Kim Newman all historically contextualised Dracula’s screen presence from film to film. During the Sunday morning panel discussion it was proposed that Dracula’s popularity today began with Bela Lugosi in 1931 and from his performance sprang the classic image of the black caped, slick haired, suave character we most often recognise as vampire. From the Count on Sesame Street to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dracula as a screen character is a broadly evolving, but no less fundamental, keystone of vampire mythology.

The weekend opened with a Friday night screening of the silent, black and white classic Nosferatu, by far the scariest Dracula adaptation I have yet seen. Every seat in the house was filled as the musicians of 3epkano entered to begin the highly atmospheric musical narration. This was truly a rare event. The experience was met with such respect that no one moved or hardly breathed for the duration of the screening. Who has not seen the iconic images from Nosferatu of the eerily long-fingered and pointed-eared shadow creeping up the stairs, with no body visible to cast the shadow? I certainly have, in commercials, film clips and parody, yet I had never had the privilege of seeing a reeled print in a dark crowded theatre. Despite its age, Nosferatu seems to possess a timeless power, which can reach out like the rat-faced, wide-eyed and long-fingered vampire himself to quicken the heartbeat and set the mind to wandering down dark corridors. It must have been unbearably frightening when screened to audiences of the ’20s. While it was argued during the introduction that Tod Browning’s 1931 Dracula was the first Hollywood studio horror film, from watching Nosferatu it is evidential that horror was already an emerging genre in filmmaking.

Bram Stoker, born in Dublin to a middle-class family, Trinity educated and successful in many pursuits, published Dracula in 1897. Though the novel was not unpopular, it was also not an instant classic. However, over the last 112 years Dracula has become a household name as the character and mythology has been adapted to fit film and television screens. As the IFI celebrated and explored the images of Dracula as a screen character, many other manifestations of Dracula’s literary influence were discussed, debated and viewed. The Irish Film Institute splendidly and spectacularly triumphed as the weekend illustrated the worldwide influence of this famously Irish literary contribution.

www.ifi.ie

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