In Review: BBC Dracula Adaptation Episode 3

The Dark Compass

Synopsis: Things pick up this time with Dracula (Claes Bang) having arrived in the “new world”. What he finds surprises even him. That is only the start of a series of shocks that sees the story take a brilliantly written turn. The battle between him and Van Helsing (Dolly Wells) rages on, but not in the way that anyone expects it to, including the Count himself . . .

Story

Choosing to use the most simple of all the abilities of Dracula, Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat construct a narrative that is both tight, but fitting to the realms of possibility within the boundaries of feasibility of convention. Of course, the extent of plausibility is is always going to questionable, but what they do brilliantly is use this as the basis for their unique spin on things.

Myth as a concept is easily interpretative, as there is never a definitive version of what is or isn’t cannon. What happens isn’t really the main issue, in this sense (yes, the plot of the story must be well planned and follow a structured delineation — it does, by the way, with precision), but the way in which it does, and the purpose evident for making certain choices. from the available canonical options. Gatiss and Moffat once again demonstrate why they have earned the trust of viewers, when it comes to telling new stories inspired by the heroes and villains within the treasured volumes of English Literature.

 

Acting

Once again, the brilliant and electric atmosphere in the drama comes from the combined presence of Claes Bang and Dolly Wells. They clasp the essence of the two forces of good and evil, and they wield it with deftness. Even when they are not sharing screen time there is a definite change in appearance when one thinks or is discussing the other; the shared stream of consciousness is well caught, by the commanding physical work on display. It’s such a great depiction that it looks completely normal. That’s the aim and it’s attained with flying colours.

Lydia West features heavily in this adaptation and depicts a much more modern Lucy Westenra, with an unashamedly healthy sexual appetite; she discusses her liasons with multiple suitors, with West managing to show the psycho-sexual power of a character, that is always what gives the real sensation of insatiability. Her take on the character builds on the theme of true attraction always being conducted via complex mental intercourse, with the bodily encounters rightly remaining as secondary. She shows well that the true thrill is in the chase.

Perhaps unfair to merely label them as supporting cast members,  Phil Dunster , Matthew Beard and Mark Gatiss  all play a part in the final act of the show. Each brings a sense of the wide-ranging fear Dracula us able to unleash upon the world that he has at his mercy. Beard incorporates the traits of unrequited love and conveys its boundlessness with tenderness, and conviction. Gatiss shows his trademark ability to blend into any role, with a creepy take on Renfeld, who creepily gives himself to Dracula with his desperately mawkish toadying.

 

CGI&Action

Some of the best visual terror was on show in this final offering, as the setting was adapted wonderfully to reflect the shocking scenes. Suggestion was used to build tension and further use of subtle hints that characters may or may not be imagining certain things. Somehow these scenes were done without any questions being unanswered, in terms the story making sense. Inspired use of light was showcased for scenes where mirror images were able to do many things at once. The pace of the drama was so seamlessly married to what was happening, for example when Dracula is threatened with direct sunlight the camera work was second to none, as it kept him his sense of panic the central thing in the scene.

Once again the use of costume was sublime. This potentially provided a challenge, considering that the traditional attire stopped being an option. Contemporary adaptation resulted in an accurate reflection of current fashions.Scenes in the nightclub looked as if they’d been filmed on a standard night out at the weekend. As it should be.

The make up too was wonderful. It’s easy to overlook that, given all the CGI in play. Without it though, the whole show would suffer. The pallor of Dracula when he was under water was one aspect that is noteworthy. More examples of appearance being kept representative of intended state was Van Helsing looking increasingly gaunt as her health begins to deplete and strength wane. The wounds looked like they were really inflicted, showing flesh that was broken, twisted and then had to recover in order to heal.

 

Overall

A classy end to what has been a wonderful and enjoyable adaptation of a classic. When so much has been written, so many other films and plays been filmed and staged, it’s a tough task to make something count. This series managed to do so, by going back through Stoker’s story and exploiting the parts that hadn’t been fully explored. Good adaptations are rarely (if ever) scene for scene remakes of original source material; when something has gotten as big as Dracula has, it’s not just the original book used to draw inspiration, it’s multiple accounts and imaginings from a varied set of traditions. The writers showed that they knew the expectations and delivered, all the while managing to render a distinct narrative voice too. Not easy.

As the final scene drew near what was needed to be was wrapped up and the clear message shone through as brightly as the sunlight did that loomed: Dracula is above all a love story. This adaptation chose to show a take on that in a unique manner, that sowed the seeds from the very first scene of the first episode. There was enough tradition, homage to Stoker’s best known book. Perhaps most of all what was proved is that whatever else the character may or may not be, Dracula is very much alive and well in 2020.

9.3
BBC Dracula Adaptation Episode 3
  • Story
    9.1
  • Acting
    9.6
  • CGI&Action
    9.4
  • Incidental Music
    9
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