No. 2 - Year 1 - 06/2011
Literature and Culture

Different Adaptations: The Power of the Vampire

DOI: 10.15291/sic/

Since film first established itself as pre-eminently a narrative medium there has been a long-running questioning on the nature of the connections between film and literature. Conrand’s known statement about his novelistic intention - “My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the powers of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel – it is, before all, to make you see” (McFarlane 3) - has often been quoted by the first filmmakers who were striving to make an adaptation and explore the vast territory of the cinematic world.

Some novels have been constantly adapted, and, like Bram Stoker’s Dracula (written in 1897), have created a whole genre. In this essay we will try to analyse some aspects of the adaptation of Stoker’s novel Dracula in the first preserved film version of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnaus’ Nosferatu (1922), and, one of the latest adaptations, Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola (1992). Some differences are noticeable between the ‘original’ narrative and how its complexity produces new readings, turning Dracula into a commodity appearing on the silver screen. We shall attempt to outline the hermeneutical circle of film adaptations in which all components play an influential role in the process of adaptation as well as in a final product; further we will indicate how historical and ideological shifts influence the adaptations and the differences between them.

As soon as cinema started to see itself as a narrative entertainment there were forays into huge, much older repositoria of narrative fiction – novels. What makes a novel so attractive as to be translated into another medium? What do these different mediums have in common? Metz sees the cinema as the emerging storyteller that found its greatest power and its largest audience; that in its beginnings led its way from trick shows, music hall, circus, street theatres and carnivals, towards the narrative representionalism of the novel. This propensity and potential for narratives shared by both is “undeniably not only the chief factor novels and the films based on them have in common but is the chief transferable element” (McFarlane 12). In a broader sense,

…if one describes a narrative as a series of events, causally linked, involving a continuing set of characters which influence and are influenced by the course of events, one realises that such a description might apply equally to a narrative displayed in a literary text and to one in a filmic text (McFarlane 12).

As we have noticed, by numerous adaptations of the novel Dracula, by increasing various characterisations of Dracula or the narrative and expressive values of the various films which feature him, by name or by implication, the novel influenced the creation of the entire genre in another media. Yet the notion of influence sometimes obscures the process of adaptation as retelling. As Joy Clayton and Eric Rothenstein point out, the idea of influence is often confusing, and if we reverse a grammatical direction much of the art of adaptation would be revealed…

If we think of Y rather than X as the agent, the vocabulary is much richer and more attractively diversified: draw on, resort to, avail oneself of, appropriate from, have recourse to, adapt, misunderstand, refer to, pick up, take on, engage with, react to, quote, differentiate oneself from, assimilate oneself to… (6).

Indeed, such a description of influence gestures towards the adaptation as a complex and never just one sided process. It appears that film constantly reduces the novel potentiality, heavily dependent on other circumstances. Any substantial cutting is based on the assumption of meaning inherited in the text, and since the meaning is not cemented in the structure, but always shifting and each text multilayered, the act of cutting radically changes the meaning through narrative, giving the whole process an air of deeply sinister molestation. Novels transposed into films so many times always have an aura of calling for authenticity or originality of the primum muvens, the novel itself.

The problem is that the so called ‘original novel’, that written by Bram Stoker enables all these interpretations, adaptations, dramatisations and different readerly productions to come into being. “It is after all, a textually dense narrative, written from a number of perspectives or ‘points of view’, which brings together a multiplicity of discursive fields and in the variability of their coding – it may undercode at times and overcode at others” (Gelder 64). At any rate, it seems that there is always more to be said about Dracula, always room for further interpretations and elaboration. Sometimes these new readings, somehow, correlate to the vampire consumption of mass culture: for instance the highly charged sexual aura of the vampire has been both at the same time the focus of numerous vampire films and of academic research. On other hand, Stoker’s Dracula has been a monumental Victorian synthesis of many knowledges about vampires, and connotations and clues for his Dracula are scattered throughout textual space. In a sense, Stoker’s narrative is summa summarum of many tales of vampires, all of which preserved Slavic origins. Or, in other words, the story has been told and retold uncountable times before.

Therefore, even before adaptation there is a problem of the possibility of the original story. Some structuralist theorists claim that the same story may exist in many different versions and in many different modes and media. And this ability of retelling serves to further the ‘structuralist cause’: “This transposability of the story… is the strongest reason for arguing that narratives are indeed structures independent of any medium”(Chatman quoted in Smith 210). Following Chatman’s Barthian line, McFarlane in his ‘Novel to Film: an introduction to the theory of adaptation’ has devised a distinction between “what may be transferred from one narrative medium to another and what necessarily requires adaptation proper” (McFarlane 13). According to McFarlane on the one side certain narrative elements of the novel are transposable into film (which he called transfer), while on the other side, some narrative elements of the novel must find different equivalencies in the film medium – must be adapted (adaptation). Yet, what is transferable, by shifting from one medium to another, may not be the same, because mental image based on verbal material, by its nature, is quite different from the visual cinematic image. While, for instance, a precise description of Dracula or the castle or some other ‘transferred element’ in the novel, always leaves enough room for the reader’s imagination to visualise, again and again, the cinema image visualises everything leaving no room for gaps. Hence, even though strictly following ‘transferable elements’, there should be different versions, different Draculas. Never just one. Nosferatu and Bram Stoker’s Dracula are translated, transformed or modified in the retelling of a narrative text into cinematic text.

Symphony of Horror

We shall never know how much the legal matter ‘inspired’ Murnau’s adaptation of the novel. In 1922, Florence Stoker complained about an unauthorised cinematic adaptation of Dracula in Germany: Nosferatu: Eine Symphony des Grauens (Eisner). The production company Prana- Film (the name derived from the Buddhist concept of ‘breath in-life’) had to change the names and settings of its only product. Dracula was Count Graf Orlok, Jonathan’s last name became Hutter, Mina was called Ellen, Lucy (who is married) had only a minor role. Refnield – in a significant change – was Hutter’s employer. Van Helsing was renamed Bulwer and – again, significantly – is rendered completely powerless against the vampire. The events are shifted into the German town of Bremen and set in 1838. In fact, the only narrative events in common with Dracula involve Hutter’s journey to Transylvania to negotiate a property deal with Orlok, and Orlok’s attraction to Mina/Ellen – which similarly concludes with the vampire ‘replacing’ Hutter in their bedroom as her partner. Although loosely based on the novel, Nosferatu is always coupled with its or his counterpart – Dracula.

The first visual interpretation of the monster is marked with a dark, sharp, detached, self-sustained and alive shadow. The shadow that crosses a bedchamber in the culmination of Murnau’s Nosferatu annoyed some critics who protested against the valuation of Bram Stoker’s attributes to the vampire by asserting the Stoker novel made it clear that the un-dead cast no shadow” (Eisner 129). The question is: Where does the shadow come from in Nosferatu?

From a particular time. An adaptation is deeply rooted in the context of its happening. Murnau’s adaptation, that teutonic symphony of horror, that weird and outlandish symphony, coincided with the emergence of a German film industry between the end of World War I and the rise of Fascism. The so-called golden age of German cinema developed a specific film aesthetic. It was the time when film was still ‘young’, a new art form or a new form of mass entertainment, still entangled with theatre. After the war, film companies quickly moved to revitalise pre-war Teutonic myths and legends; silent German films were soon to be fused with the macabre fantasies, gothic studies of demonic forces, and slanted houses, and twisted shapes and shadows. German expressionism’s hallmark is certainly a shadow. And later evaluations of the era in which supernatural forces were combined with a fascination with Freudian and pre-Freudian psychology, expose the darkness of the subconscious that breathed shadows into the city where a sinister Doctor Mabuse and his company lurked. This is the landscape of Nosferatu. No adaptation can be freed from its intertextuality. Hence Murnau’s Dracula cast a very long and distinguished shadow.

Its shadow is trapped in intertextuality, and the inserted title that reads: “As twilight came on, the empty castle become alive with menacing shadows” presents an attempt to visualize, ‘to see’ the Gothic terror of Stoker’s novel. To enchant the viewer with Dracula’s mesmerising personality, Murnau draws incessantly throughout the film a parallel between the count and his or its habitat: the landscape suffused with darkness, threatened the appearances of jackals, rats carrying plague, sinister vegetation.... The architecture of Bremen, too, the initial establishing shot of the cathedral quickly reveals a number of black holes – empty apartments devoid of life or activity, as if the lifeless and withered homes suffered the bloodless state of vampire victims. Murnau’s film suggests the power of the vampire in every scene; he slides towards the camera, becoming larger and larger until completely filling the frame. Symphony of horror captures architecture of terror remarkable in the Gothic novel which is full of dark corridors, hidden catacombs, an infinite array of strange lamps, damp trap doors; terrified and naive victims trapped in a claustrophobic environment. In translating the impulses of inspiration by literary texts into a film, Murnau establishes many peculiarities and idiosyncrasies, especially in film design. Yet the biggest challenge certainly is how to translate or create the look, the appearance of the most popular vampire that is described in the novel as well.

His face was a strong – a very strong –aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty doomed 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 that 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 strong, and the cheek firms though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor (Stoker 19).

In this translation of Dracula’s character, the look, the first appearance is the most exciting in the process of adaptation. Yet, no Dracula is the same. Dracula has many faces. Nosferatu – Orlok is quite different. Murnau depicts the vampire almost as a ghoul. His pointed ears and distinctly misshapen bald skull, hollow eyes, a large hooked nose and two rat-like front teeth, long claws for nails; his rodent-like, animal, bestial, greedy appearance has nothing to do with the suave noble count depicted in Stoker’s novel. Its shock value relies entirely on his association with the bubonic plague, which he brings to Bremen. Orlok is always set apart from his environment, never seen in the company of anyone else: alone in the castle, alone roaming the streets of Bremen. His loneliness can be dispelled by Harker’s wife, Nina: “Only a woman can break his frightful spell – a woman pure in heart-who will offer her blood freely to Nosferatu and… will keep the vampire by her side until after the cock has crowed” (Murnau’s silent movie Nosferatu). When Ellen discovers the book of vampires in which it is written that only a woman ‘of pure heart’, who offers her blood freely to Nosferatu, can end the plague, she decides, melodramatically, to sacrifice herself.

She throws the window wide open and spreads her arms. A bony, elongated shadow with awkward hands moves across a wall toward Ellen’s room. Her face expresses a horrible attraction. The shadow of Orlok’s hand creeps up across the white of her dress until it rests over her bosom. As Nosferatu drinks from Ellen’s neck, the emergent sunlight slides over the adjacent house. The vampire staggers away from Ellen’s window as the light begins to enter and disappears in a puff of smoke lighted by the rising sun on the bedroom floor. A title explains the cathartic effect Ellen’s actions have had: “And at that moment, as if by a miracle, the sick no longer died”.

The plague – the town – the sacrifice of woman – where does it come from? Obviously not from Stoker’s novel, the narrative, metaphorically, draws its source from another book, from the book on a silver screen, the film-book that Hutter had found in the Translyvanian inn. Rather than being an adaptation of Stoker’s novel, Murnau draws his enchantment from that book; it is the adaptation of the other book that had already been captured with the eye of the camera, the book that exists only in the film.

Various critics wrote about Nosferatu. A New York Post critic compared Hamilton Dean’s play ‘Dracula’ with the film and argued that the play was the literary source for Murnau’s film – finding Nosferatu “infinitely more subtly horrible than the stage edition… a pestilential horror coming from a fear of things only rarely seen” (Romer 37). Later critics see Nosferatu as reduced to its simplest essentials, opening a cinematic mythical space, sometimes compared with the Descend myth in which characters descend from a state of innocence into massy horrifying reality. Recently, political readings prevailed. Thomas Elsaesser, for instance, sees expressionist horror-fantasy as allegories of contemporary history, which speak of the national character, the German soul. Nosferatu clearly attempts to create a ‘typical’ German town that is exposed to foreign threat. If we compare those elements the most different of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, an adaptation into film might shed a little light on the Nosferatu’s broader context. The most surprising character shift in the film involves Reinfield, who is Hutter’s employer, a real estate agent. He resembles Orlok; they both pore over a sheet of paper covered in hieroglyphs; they are engaged in private transactions and the hieroglyphs underscore their foreigness. Reinfield encourages Hutter to carry out the deal with the foreigners – the vampire; it is Reinfield who brings the plague of Nosferatu to Bremen. Thus the Murnau’s Symphony of horror supplements its dominant vampire narrative with a second, connected sequence of events that inspires Elsaesser in reading this German film as antisemitic: killing the vampire becomes a civic duty, Ellen sacrifices herself to keep German property ‘pure’- she must allow her body to become impure.

Through Murnau’s ‘adaptation’ Bram Stoker’s Dracula becomes a silver screen vampire blending all its sources in a never-ending self-referential play of relation to the novel and other cinematic vampires. Murnau’s interpretation is just the first in a long procession of different screen monsters.

Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Despite McFarlane’ s idea of narrative as a ‘chief transferable element’ from literary text to cinematic text, both Murnau and Coppola, even in the title of their films reflect some crucial dilemmas of adaptation or retelling. That is why the title reads Bram Stoker’s Dracula, not anyone else’s. Even historians were employed to research the background of his principal character. Following the hint in the novel when Dracula tells Harker of “…one of my own race who as Voivode crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground! This was Dracula indeed!” (Stoker 29). Much later Van Helsing posits that their adversary “must, indeed, have been that Voivode Dracula, who won his name against the Turk”. Stoker’s research source never identifies the Voivode or Count, or Dracula as ‘Vlad the Impaler’; but the books by Anthony Masters and McNally and Florescu published the year before Coppola’s production do make this connection (Lewis). However, thus arises the problem of ‘faithfulness’ that is always tied to the adaptation of novel into film.

Although Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula claimed to be a faithful reproduction of the novel, there is an extended scene that has nothing to do with the novel: Dracula’s and Mina’s visit to the Cinematograph in London, around 1896. Though filled with fascinating modern gadgets – Remigton typewriter, Dr Seward’s monograph, trains and telegraphs – Coppola does not show the one device that was to be the most connected with destiny of his vampire - a film camera. However, one of the films being shown, Lumiere’s Arrival of a Train at the Station, indicates Coppola’s intention to draw the parallel between film and the Count’s survival in popular mass culture.

Coppola’s adaptation is related to the number of previous retellings and canonisations of the Count-vampire. As the number of versions and adaptations grow the problem of each new adaptation is not just relation to Stoker’s narrative but to previous ones. Vampire films have offered immediate points of viewer recognition because of their generated self-referentially – the kind of recognition that centres on the principal actor. Stoker’s description of Count Dracula is the seminal portrait of character from which all succeeding interpretations one would assume to be constructed, and yet it is quite apparent that the universally recognised Dracula derives from other sources. Of all the incarnations of the un-dead Transylvanian noblemen, it is assumed that no other has dominated the role as completely as the Hungarian, Bela Lugosi. For many viewers, Lugosi might well be the ‘original’ Dracula; his manners, his pallid expression, his peculiar voice rendering what Stoker described as a strange intonation is irrevocably linked with Stoker’s character. This genuine stereotypfication of the Dracula figure becomes the base for each new visualisation, adding something to the list of expectation already associated with the genre. For instance, Alain Silver and James Ursini array the attributes and names of the most important embodiment of the Count.

... from the spectral Max Schreck to the panther-like Christopher Lee, from slender, soft-spoken John Carradine to the heavy-set, belligerent Lon Chaney Jr., from the sinister German Robles in Mexico’s Nostradamus series to the effete Robert Quarray as the campish Count Yorga… (Silver and Ursini 57).

Or, we can add Coppola’s and Oldman’s Dracula described by a critic: “Gary Oldman’s performance teasingly alternates between belligerence and camp, his dandyish swishiness of gesture suddenly giving way to the hiss of his sword”(Glover 142). All these incarnations of the vampire play with the horizon of expectations of the audience, whose insatiable comparison, valuation or favoritisation may be created in some future version. Therefore, new adaptations always count on the previous one, sometimes including or differentiating them. As one of the latest versions, Coppola’s adaptation plays with the vast field of realised possibilities as well cinematic styles.

The title of the film focuses on fatefulness – Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Some critics stressed the accuracy of the main narrative line that strictly follows Stoker’s original novel, claiming that his version relied more closely on the storyline of the book than any previous Dracula movie. The story opens with Jonathan Harker and his letter to his fiancée about his travel to Castle Dracula in Transylvania; then it moves to his first encounter with the vampire; the scene when he was attacked by the three female vampire brides, residents of the castle…. Three suitors of Lucy Westenra – Quincey P. Morris, Arthur Holwood and Dr. John Seward – protect her against the creature with high-coifed Kabuki hair in a red silk tunic (Coppola’s and Goldman’s Dracula). Unable at first to determine the cause of her sweaty fantasies caused by a tiny mark on her neck, Dr. Seward calls in Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, the famous vampirologist, who organizes the opposition that finally defeats Dracula after tracking him back from the chiaroscuro English daylight into the dark, unknown part of Europe.

This, the most faithful version, deviated from Stoker’s novel at several points. As a prelude to the movie, a historical side of Dracula is a briefly told, describing his life as Vlad the Impaler, the film extends its intertextual relation to the Dan Curtis / Jack Palance version of Dracula (1973) in which Curtis used Vlad’s story to provide the rationale for Dracula’s attack upon the specific woman that was chosen as a target in England. In Dracula (1974), Palance saw a picture of Mina Murray, Harker’s fiancee, who was the mirror image of his lost love of the fifteenth century. He travelled to England in order to recapture the love of his prevampire life. However, these several seemingly unimportant deviations from Stoker’s narrative would mark the entire adaptation, directing it towards a quite different interpretation.

The prelude indicates all postmodern tapestries of different cinematic styles that would further be employed in developing the narrative. Alain Silver and James Ursini in their book The Vampire Film: from Nosferatu to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, show how the opening scenes combine numerous cinematic expressions: the battle poses of Alexander Nevsky with the coloration of the Gothic interiors from Ivan the Terrible; as the narrator tells of the fall of Constantinople, the dome of an Orthodox cathedral is surrounded by billowing black clouds of smoke as the city burns. The cut moves directly inward to a tighter composition, again recalling Eisenstein's method of montage. The shot of the Maltese-shaped stone cross falling in slow motion is an expressionistic treatment; the image of a map over which the shadow of an Islamic crescent slowly spreads recalls the expositional graphics of pre-war American cinema.

The prelude also reveals the origin of Dracula vampirism: his bride, Elizabeth, who mistakenly believed in his death commits suicide, and according to Eastern Orthodox Theology the door of heaven was forever closed to her. Since she could not go to heaven, Dracula blasphemes God and attacks the cross with his sword; he drinks blood waterfalling from the impaled cross, and presumably this blasphemous act resulted in his transformation into a vampire. This blasphemy turns to be a long and tragic alienation perpetuated by drinking the blood of humans. This prelude, like some other indication in the first third of the narrative – when Dracula’s bride’s sensual and surrealistic attack on the confused Victorian was interrupted by the line from Stoker’s novel “This man is mine” to which was added “Yes, I too, can love. And I shall love again”- indicates the major shift in character interpretation, problematising ‘the fatefulness’ of this adaptation.

Indeed, as we have seen, from the prelude the narrative engages in demystifying the vampire’s nature, his dark side from Balkan folk tales and ancient medieval legends, and reducing its evil and mystic bloodthirstiness to rational proportions. The metanarrative from the prelude resembles, as Glover comments

…a kind of rational theology. Hence, the entire narrative can be read as ‘ a tale of spiritual exile, of an apostate prince who is given a second chance by the reincarnation of his lost princess in a circular story of sacrifice and salvation through undying human love (Glover 141).

By providing Dracula with a traumatic personal history the vampire is not only romanticised and sentimentalised, but this alteration affects the entire process of adaptation from novel into film to the point of mixing different genres, or even as Glover claims in his excellent analysis, “From a generic point of view, the films’ achievement is to transform Gothic horror into religious melodrama…” (Glover 141). The seeds of this transformation culminate in the film finale when Dracula’s plight produces a demand that he receives absolution. This is accomplished by Mina Harker when she cuts into her lover’s heart and then cuts off his head, simultaneously “purging herself of her adultery and laying Dracula’s soul to rest in renunciation of her deepest, most contradictory desires. In so doing she is ensuring that her ‘prince’ dies as a human being” (Glover 149). Thus, in a sense Bram Stoker’s Dracula, despite its title, can be viewed not as the most faithful adaptation of Stoker’s novel but quite the opposite – the most unfaithful adaptation.

The metaphor of ‘fatefulness’ or ‘unfaithfulness’ shows a dualistic and untangled relation between the novel and film, a metaphor reminiscent of the love-hate relationship between female and male, the western ambiguity of love. The insistence on fidelity has led to a suppression of potentially more rewarding approaches to the phenomenon of adaptation. It tends to ignore the idea of adaptation as a creative process wherein presupposed and fixed meanings begin to slide, wherein ‘promiscuity’ becomes dominant, especially in transition from one medium to another; it fails to take into account that transposition from novel into film always requires a creative visual response to the verbal narrative of the gutenberg galaxy; it marginalizes those production determinants which have nothing to do with the novel but may be powerfully influential upon the film. Therefore, in our opinion, each adaptation is a retelling, that should be viewed as a creative process, rather than a mechanical or reductional relation between different media. Therefore, instead of the emphasis on fidelity, a complex process of adaptation into film might be seen as a creative retelling in the different medium. However, since the adaptation from the novel into a film is always relational and gradual, it is often described as ‘inspired’ by the novel or ‘based’ on the novel or an ‘adaptation’ or ‘dramatisation’ of the novel. Klein proposes:

Studies of the adaptation of novels into film generally focus upon several interrelated questions: whether the film is a literal, critical, or relatively free adaptation of the literary source; whether significant cultural and ideological shifts occur when a novel that was written in a particular historical period is transposed into modern film; whether cinematic equivalents of the rhetoric and discourse of fiction extend the perspective of the literary source (9).

In this context we can view Murnau’s Nosferatu and Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. While Nosferatu is a first preserved attempt of transposing the evil Count- vampire in the ‘motion picture’ medium, Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, presenting the most metanarratives and referential attempts in the quest of the ultimate image of the satanic vampire, is among the last. The first is only loosely based on the play that is a dramatisation of the novel, while the second, though following more accurately the narrative, is not substantially closer to Bram Stoker’s novel, though bearing the title Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The novel itself, complex and multilayered, has no one fixed meaning by which we could measure ‘the distance’ between two adaptations. Despite that, in our opinion, there are no ‘transferable elements’ in the novel, though there is always an ‘ambiguous and promiscuous’ relation between the two, preserved in the audiences’ horizon of expectation. In the frame of this expectation the constant play among ‘literal’, ‘critical’ or ‘free’ adaptation takes place.

What seems more significant to me is ‘cultural and ideological shift’ related to Dracula’s adaptation. Murnau’s Nosferatu from the golden age of German cinema after the First World War is determined by film’s technical development, aesthetic and ideological forces, as well as Murnau's personal interpretation of Dracula: that is film still dependent on the theatre either means of expression, style or the source of potentially interested narratives, revitalisation of Teutonic myths and legends, macabre fantasies of a specific style called German expressionism, and often hidden anti-Semitism preparing the ground for fascism, and Murnau’s idiosyncratic style. On the other hand, Coppola’s adaptation took place seventy years later, in the postmodern landscape of fragmentation, playing the past as an endless reservoir of possible styles. Not only has the cinema advanced technologically, but the older versions of Stoker’s novel play a significant role in Coppola’s retelling, some of them being directly incorporated giving the entire adaptation a different direction.

Besides structural differences, script- play, roles, visualisation, actors, sets, the retelling entwined in the film industry is quite a specific, intrinsic field of different polimorphous forces. Contrary to boundless visions of textuality, the film attends to the forces that restrict the free circulation of cinematic text.

Although every text possesses countless points of intersection with other texts, these connections situate a work within existing networks of power, simultanously creating and disciplining the text’s ability to signify. Foucault insists that we analyse the role of power in the production of textuality and of textuality in the production of power. This entails looking closely at those social and political institutions (Clayton and Rothstein 27).

The producing of cinematic text is much more determined by the role of power than that of literary text; therefore, the adaptation always ‘exists’ in the context of a budget, and that again depends on the box office and so on. Or, simply, film is profit driven. The vampire survives because it brings profit. Indeed, it would seem that cinema is – and has been for some time – the rightful place of occupation for Dracula. David J. Skal comments that Dracula didn’t begin in Hollywood, but it travelled there with an inexorable momentum. It would seem that the vampire was likely to travel to any place with the means to produce, and to show a film. Cinema may be, as Gedler comments, a suitably nomadic home for the vampire: it, too, eventually goes everywhere – it has become an international medium, a multinational corporation…

In each new version the audience is always attracted by differences from older versions: in the new look of the Count, new storyline, film design, and so on. Each new retelling is challenged with the act of visual presentation. Despite this, the vampire’s perverse polymorphousness resists representation, making it notoriously difficult to pin down the content of that influence, of vampirization visible in blood-stained fangs, the being, the essence of that transition, of that repetition, called adaptation into film. Vampires (as well as Dracula) throw no shadow on the floor, have no footprints in the dust, cast no reflection in the mirror, sometimes they glide in the silence, like Harker’s first witnessing of Dracula perverse, bat-like sliding down the wall of his castle, into the dark with the hissing and swishing of gypsies voices in the background.

Part of his or its supernatural existence is immortality, and immortality sometimes arises from the need for repetition, for retelling the story over and over. As Glover points out: “… the appeal of a novel like Dracula lies not only in its spectacular depiction of the return from the dead, but also in its deathlessness as narrative, a story that never seems to come to an end, that never quite drops out of circulation” (Glover 1996: 138). Of course, by constant repetition, the vampire enters into the seemingly atemporal space of myth; it roams and questions the Levi- Strauss mythic space, which he believes owes its existence to the constant repetition of the same or similar stories that can be traced to universal structures of the human mind. Opposite to the abyss of mythic time, the cinematic vampire itinerary, from rodent-like Murnau’s Nosferatu to dandy-like Coppola’s Count, is quite known. Perhaps because of that the Count and Mina in Coppola’s version visited a Cinematographer in London. Film adaptation as retelling is a fairly complicated process involving different medias, numerous circumstances that can enable sometimes strange, sometimes ‘successful’ encounters between the novel and the film.

Works Cited

Clayton, Jay and Eric Rothenstein. “Figures in the Corpus.” Influence and Intertextuality in Literary History. Ed. Jay Clayton and Eric Rothenstein. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991: 3-36. Print.

Eisner, Lotten. The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. Print.

Gelder, Ken. Reading the Vampire. London and New York: Routledge, 1994. Print. crossref

Glover, David. Vampires, Mummies and Liberals: Bram Stoker and the Politics of Popular Fiction. London: Duke University Press, 1996. Print

Lewis, Jon. Whom God Wishes to destroy… Francis Coppola and the New Hollywood. London: Duke University Press, 1995. Print.

McFarlane, Brian. Novel to Film: an Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. Print.

Romer, Richard Ira. The Cinematic Treatment of the Protagonist in Murnau’s Nosferatu, Browning’s Dracula and Whale’s Frankenstein. Doctor of Education thesis. Columbia University, 1984. Print.

Silver, Alain, and James Ursini. The Vampire Film: from Nosferatu to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. New York: Limelight Editions, 1993. Print.

Smith, Barbara. “Narative Versions, Narrative Theories.” Critical Inquiry 7.1 (1980): 213-236. Print. crossref

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.

Note About Contributor(s)

Mario Vrbančić, University of Zadar, Croatia


Mario Vrbančić works in the Department of English at the University of Zadar and holds a PhD from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He has worked in Croatia, New Zealand, Ukraine, and Australia. He has written two books (The Lacanian Thing, Postmodern Culture, Psychoanalysis and Cinema – Cambria Press & Hitchcockian Gaze – Jesenski i Turk) and a number of academic articles on postmodern literature and culture, and his work has been published in various journals, including Performance Research, Comparative Literature and Culture, and New Literary History. As an artist he has written several radio and theatrical plays and since 2010 he has been involved as director and writer in many independent film projects, including: feature documentary Kupica (2010), short fiction The Referee’s Dream (2011), short fiction My Little Time Machine (2011), short fiction The Man and the Smile (2012), feature fiction Tail Job (2015), feature fiction Manhattan Odyssey (2020).

Senka Božić- Vrbančić, University of Zadar, Croatia


Senka Božić-Vrbančić currently teaches at the Department of English Language and Literature, The University of Zadar. Her work spans the fields of anthropology, cultural studies, visual culture and memory studies with an emphasis on multicultural issues, cultural memory, national identity and cultural policy. She worked in Croatia, New Zealand, Ukraine and Australia. She was chief investigator in 3 international projects and published widely on the politics of culture and identity issues.