Thursday, November 7, 2013

The old world and the new

'When it comes to dreams, one may falter; but the only way to fail is to abandon them.' - Dracula

There is a new show on the block starring Jonathan Rhys as the charming, vengeful, visionary, egomaniacal and delusional Dracula.

Check out the season 1 promo here:

Two episodes in, and Steve Shill's Dracula has had a promising start. Alexander Grayson's obsession with the old world and the new seems to unnerve all of his enemies - even if it is just a cover story to hide his true agenda. He is a man (vampire) with a plan and there is nothing - apart from Mina - that can hinder the determination of this centuries old Dracula. I have high hopes that this show will redeem the notion of what it means to be a vampire. Dracula has always been a complex character and deeply conflicted. It is great to see a TV series that does just tribute to the legendary tale.

Jonathan plays the role of Alexander Grayson (Dracula) perfectly as his presence commands the room when he wants to; yet he maintains the amazing ability to be discreet and understated when necessary. He throws a Gatsby quality party to announce his arrival as an American businessman and uses that event as a platform to seek out potential allies and enemies.

People simply cannot stop talking about him and he has that amazing quality that draws people in. He awes the room with his advanced magnet technology display and just as quickly exited the party. He is arrogant, dark, mysterious, and dangerous. He arrives in London with a mission and he does not care the slightest to play the political game by the rules. He makes it up as he goes along and even though his allies disagree, he is too self-assured to care.

Apart from the apt casting, I am compelled to continue watching this series due to its cinematography and direction. The stills from the episodes are works of art and they tell the audience more that words could ever articulate.

In the image, we see Alexander Grayson right before he brutally murders and feeds on a waitress in a dark alley. The image shows us the internal conflict that comes naturally to him before he feeds. He is a complex character and is multi-faceted. He has many faces and there is a clear struggle with his identity. He is a killer by survival instinct, a visionary of the society he is in and also just another seemingly ordinary man. He may not be human anymore but he was one, centuries ago. And although by no means human, he is in touch with his humanity. He knows deep down the value of a human life. After all, his whole agenda is avenging his lost love.The conflict within him is obvious in the image below. The orange and red hues add an element of danger and warning. The audience knows what is coming next - the primal need to feed.

Because I love the photography so much, I shall share another freeze frame with you. Beheading is a precautionary measure to prevent victims from turning into vampires themselves. In this image, the audience had just witnessed Lady Jayne dismembering the victim's head. Having the bird's eye view, the audience sees the blood splatter that is caused by the beheading. The severed head lies visibly distant from the bloody body. The victim's face is lit but Lady Jayne is crouching in the darkness. She has failed to hunt and kill the vampire before it took another innocent life. Though the order of the dragon is Dracula's enemy, and has been presented as the antagonist in the story thus far, we see now that their agenda is not entirely baseless. She could also be placed in the dark side of the alleyway to signify her level of awareness. She does not know that the vampire she is hunting is her friend and part time lover Alexander Grayson.

This series does not hold back on the scare factor, rather it presents the horror in a gruesome yet poetic way. The use of lighting, positioning and camera angles allows the audience to interpret the situation. Both the protagonist and antagonist live in a moral grey area such that the audience can empathise with both their dilemmas and understand their motives.

Apart from the cinematography, I am a big fan of the costume and set design. It lives up to classy reputation that is associated with the Victorian era. The dresses, hats, coats and bowties are unmistakably Victorian. The quaint streets that Harker and Mina walks through, the ballrooms and secret gentlemen clubs are all so well designed and successful in creating the atmosphere and setting of 19th century England. There are times where certain characters used rather modern colloquial terms but those minor instances are easy to overlook -considering they were having tea while watching a fencing tournament in a restaurant, as you do.

It is still too early to claim that this series is going to redefine Vampirism after the sexy, mysterious, dangerous and diabolical image was completely obliterated by the likes of Twilight. However, I am sufficiently convinced that I won't be disappointed.
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