04 October 2009

Welcome to my house!

the incomparable Bela Legosi

Dracula: Ch.s II, III

Interestingly, I don't think I have ever seen a movie Dracula that even comes close to Stoker's description:

"His face was a strong- a very strong- aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere.  His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion.  The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years.  For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed; the chin was broad and stong, and the cheeks firm though thin.  The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor."
In other words, not:

nobody doesn't like christopher lee

or this guy, misplaced his name. (Sorry dude.)

In fact, to be really honest with you, he sounds a lot more like my dad:


ha, ha.   Can't picture Dracula in a Disneyland hoodie, though.

So, our brave, if kind of distracted, hero Jonathan Harker, the kindly solicitor from London, has arrived at Dracula's crazy castle on the cliff and has been plunged into a long, weird dream.  He has found himself locked in, served by the master of the house himself, who at first appears to be just another lonely senior citizen in the Carpathians who needs someone to talk to.  He even just adores London, like any sober minded, white non-Englishman would, clearly.  However, as Jonathan starts sleeping through the days and spending his nights alone or chatting with the kindly old man, reality begins to slip.  Did he really see Dracula creep down the wall like a lizard?  Did he really get a near-hickey from a fair lady with "great wavy masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires"?  We aren't really sure yet, but clearly Jonathan is more than just a pretty face.  (Argh!  That's Keanu poisoning my mind again!)
My favorite movie Jonathan: Bruno Ganz in 1979's Nosferatu.  In fact, I need to rewatch this movie soon.  I remember the plague scenes being profoundly disturbing.

I can't just let the stuff about the crucifix go, either.  It's more of that East vs. West mentality-  and I think Bram Stoker was brilliant to work it in.  Nothing has been more distressing to the puritanical Calvinist tradition than religions claiming to be Christian and relying on objects and icons as tangible symbols of their faith.  Finding himself deeply comforted by a rosary given to him by an old lady in a village, Jonathan muses: "It is odd that a thing which I have been taught to regard with disfavour and as idolatrous shoudl in a time of loneliness and trouble be of help.  Is it that there is something in the essence of the thing itself, or that it is a  medium, a tangible help, in conveying memories of sympathy and comfort?"  I just read a review of Karen Armstrong's new book, The Case for God, in which she argues (I think?) that the monotheism people are angry at today is a modern, post enlightment version of the great mystery people embraced in times of joy and trouble, as they might embrace great beauty in art and music.  In other words, Jonathan, the crucifix is comforting you, darling, because you have left your Reasonable England and are in the Eastern trenches with the medieval forces of good and evil, of beauty and repulsion, faith and fear.  It seats the whole story in a primeval mood.