In “Dracula,” the 1897 vampire tale by Bram Stoker—before “Twilight” and “True Blood”—Jonathan Harker and Van Helsing faced Dracula in order to save London and the life of Mina Harker. The Irishman has been credited with creating one of the best pieces of literary horror, a powerful invasion novel and the most iconic vampire novels of all time.
“Bram Stoker agus Dracula,” a documentary by director Keith O’Grady, is playing this Saturday at the Irish Film Festival. The film, which has been released close to the centenary anniversary of Stoker’s death on April 20, 1912, delves into the history of “Dracula” as an Irish novel and the entry of the vampire into the mass public.
O’Grady and producer Deaglán Ó Mocháin continued researching from the inception of the film’s idea and throughout production. “We set out to make a documentary about the history of Ireland’s influence on the vampire myth and we found that we would have to concentrate on a few key players,” says O’Grady.
The documentary focuses on the relationship between Dracula and the historical Vlad Tepes, the discrepancies in the early film adaptations—the Dracula of the novel is not the suave Bela Lugosi of the 1931 film—and the connection between Transylvanian and Irish folklore. Drawing from Stoker’s life, diary and acquaintances, the film tracks down the origins of his inspiration and uses his writing and editing process to offer insight into his creative process.
The film also includes the influence that other early Irish gothic writing had on Stoker, from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s lesbian vampire story “Carmilla” to Charles Robert Maturin’s tale of the immortal scholar, “Melmoth the Wanderer.” Both stories predate “Dracula,” and although never gained the mass popularity of Stoker’s work, they shed light on the vampire mythology at the time “Dracula” was written.
The film is primarily in the Irish language, complementing the filmmaker’s argument that, at its heart, “Dracula” is an Irish novel—despite being set in Transylvania and London. “The presence of the English language [in the film] is simply because some of the experts didn’t speak Irish,” O’Grady says. “There is a great infrastructure for Irish language filmmaking now.”
O’Grady says that he has been fascinated with the novel since he first read “Dracula” as a young teenager. “What got the project going now was a desire to show where all this current vampire euphoria comes from,” he says. “The ‘Twilight Saga’ has a massive influence on the youth of America and the rest of the western world at the moment and we wanted to show the origins. It’s as much a film about influences on vampire mythology as it is about Bram and his creation.” (Kristen Micek)
“Bram Stoker agus Dracula” will be screening at the Chicago Irish Film Festival on March 3 at 4pm at the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 West 111th, (773)445-3838. The festival runs from March 2 to March 7.