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Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary

Year: 2002
Format: Super 8mm/16mm Black & White
Runtime: 75 min
Director: Guy Maddin
Producer: Vonnie Helmolt
Writer: Mark Godden
Cinematographer: Paul Suderman
Editor: deco dawson
Sound: Bruce Little
Music: Gustav Mahler
Cast: Zhang Wei-qiang, Tara Birtwhistle, David Moroni, CindyMarie Small, Johnny Wright, Stephane Leonard, Matthew Johnson

Guy Maddin’s Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary takes one of cinema’s oldest stories and very nearly reinvents it. Made for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, this silent-movie rendering of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s adaptation of the classic Bram Stoker novel was shot on black-and-white Super 8mm and 16mm. It plays like a new-media Nosferatu, complete with allegorical racial overtones and barely sublimated sensuality. A campy Gothic ambience is achieved through the production’s evocative set and costume design, use of dreamy close-ups and other melodramatic narrative devices, and Maddin’s audacious emphasis on the story’s racial and erotic subtexts.

Perhaps Maddin’s most accessible film to date, Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary is surprisingly faithful to Stoker’s 1897 novel. Recounting the tale of Count Dracula’s (Zhang Wei-qiang) seduction of Lucy Westenra (Tara Birtwhistle), and making creative use of his anachronistic arsenal of irises and intertitles, Maddin guides the mood from languid Victorian elegance to tense Victorian anxiety. Poetic and erotic, creepy and melodramatic, overwrought and mocking, Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary has the look and style of a silent film, but often feels more like avant-garde theatre.

After its highly successful broadcast on CBC television, Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary was released theatrically in major American markets and generally met with glowing reviews. As Stephen Holden noted in his favourable New York Times review, "Mr. Maddin, whose mostly silent films recreate the flickering, melodramatic ambience of early movies, is a cinematic aesthete whose montages evoke a primitive movie-going experience with a winking postmodern knowingness. In Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, he and his longtime associate director and editor, deco dawson, have reinvented the dance film in a homemade style that alludes to F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu while looking back but nodding to the present."

Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary was named one of Canada’s Top Ten of 2002 by an independent, ten-member national panel comprised of filmmakers, programmers, journalists and industry professionals. Maddin won a Gemini Award for his direction, while the film was named Best Performing Arts Program or Series at the Geminis. It also won an International Emmy Award for Arts Programming.

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