Wider Contexts For a broader conceptual understanding
Vampire Origins The Vampire’s origins lie in the folklore of virtually all cultures. Within these stories, these creatures take on various names and equally varied forms, from the Vrykolakas of Greece and the Vetalas of India or the Moroi of Romania. Throughout their long history their physical appearance has changed but their social function has remained the same, suggesting that the vampire is as much a symbolic being as a supernatural force.
Within Eastern European lore vampires are often depicted as dirty, stumbling and mindless peasants whose victims are often their own family or neighbours. Their existence was used to explain sudden deaths or the spread of disease within the community, clearly indicating that the image of the vampire, for this culture at least, was one of a contagious pestilence. Such a description is dramatically different to the image most Western readers and audiences are familiar with. To them, the vampire is a clean and sophisticated creature, a supernatural being that is personified by the Count in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula (1897). In this narrative the vampire comes to English shores from abroad and begins its seduction of virginal young women, biting their necks and turning them into his undead brides. Even from this simple description of Stoker’s complex narrative, a similar symbolic value to the East European folklore emerges; this time the vampire is a sexual predator that infects the innocent with disease. From these examples emerge two of the vampire’s most potent symbolic qualities, they are a direct threat to the safety of the family unit and their primary symbolic function is to represent that which is the ‘other’.
As a broad definition, the term the Other refers to those characters who stand in opposition to characters who represent the ‘normal’ within any narrative. In essence, the Other is simply that which is wholly different to the ‘normal’. Relating this to the vampire consider any adaptation of Stoker’s Dracula : here ‘normal’ is represented by the protagonists Jonathan Harker and Van Helsing whilst the Other is, obviously, Count Dracula and those he infects. The opposition is obvious in that Harker and Helsing are good, moral and pure, whereas Dracula is evil, immoral and diseased. To take the character’s symbolic values further it can be suggested that the protagonists represent a patriarchal, heterosexual and (more than likely) Christian society, that is attacked by the satanic force of the vampire. Patriarchal: characteristic of a form of social organization in which the male is the family head and title is traced through the male line
Describe how The Omega Man can be said to relate to the concept of ‘the Other’.
Describe how I am Legend can be said to relate to the concept of ‘the Other’.
Clearly then the vampire, in all of its manifestations, is a prime example of the Other. But in recent years the figure of the vampire has steadily changed: although historically depicted as a
disease-ridden, aggressive and uncommunicative creature, contemporary depictions of the vampire have given them back their humanity and their voice so they can communicate the pain of their ‘illness’ and reflect , in a melancholy manner, upon the horrors of immortality. Films such as The Vampire Lovers (Roy Ward Baker, 1970) The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983). Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992) and Neil Jordan’s Interview with a Vampire, 1994, all provided the opportunity for their vampire (anti)heroes to speak about their condition and so elicit the audience’s sympathy.
Brad Pitt tells all to reporter Christian Slater in Neil Jordan’s 1994 twist on the tale by Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire. How did the vampire change in I am Legend?
F.W.Murnau’s German Nosferatu (Bird of Death) 1922. Represented a plague brought to our shores from Eastern Europe. Christopher Lee as the blood sucking Dracula, Hammer Productions, 1958. From a Marxist perspective the aristocratic vampire (i.e. Count Dracula) drinks the blood of the working man or the working class (the proletariat). This reflects the rich owners (the bourgeois) of the means of production exploiting the workers. Brides of Dracula (1960). Directed by Terence Fisher Vampire films from the 60s reflected free love and women exploring their sexuality.
The themes of sexuality continued with Jesus Francoâ€™s, 1971 film Vampyros Lesbos
Theaact Even Andy Warhol had goof seduction (and the bite) often performed by the vampire, at the formula with Dracula often featured in medium to big close-ups of teeth penetrating the neck (an erogenous zone) was seen as a deeply pleasurable, sexualised act, an act of penetration, (Dir: Paul Morrisey, 1974) which was followed by a brief loss of consciousness was seen as relative to an orgasm. The French sometimes refer to orgasm as le mort petit - the little death. Francis Ford Coppola used the bite as a metaphor for HIV in Bram Stokerâ€™s Dracula.
Themes in Dracula Dracula is an epistolary novel, written as a collection of diary entries, telegrams, and letters from the characters. This literary style adds a sense of realism and provides the reader with the perspective of most of the major characters. By use of the epistolary structure, Stoker, without employing either an omniscient narrator or any awkward framing device, maximizes suspense by avoiding any implicit promise to the reader that any first-person narrator must survive all the story's perils. An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. Recently, electronic "documents" such as recordings and radio, blogs and e-mails have also come into use. The word epistolary comes from the Latin word epistola, meaning a letter.
Q. How do the films incorporate the epistolary novel style?
The Omega Man
I am Legend
The term framing device refers to the usage of the same single action, scene, event, setting, or any element of significance at both the beginning and end of an artistic, musical, or literary work. The repeated element thus creates a ‘frame’ within which the main body of work can develop.
Dracula may be viewed as a novel about the struggle between tradition and modernity at the fin de siècle. Throughout, there are various references to changing gender roles; Mina Harker can be seen as a thoroughly modern woman, using such modern technologies as the typewriter. She also displays some characteristics of the New Woman through her rejection of deference to male superiority and her economic independence. However, Mina still embodies a traditional gender role, as seen in her feminine and maternal nature and her occupation as an assistant schoolmistress. Fin de siècle is French for ‛end of the century‘. The term sometimes encompasses both the closing and onset of an era, as it was felt to be a period of degeneration, but at the same time a period of hope for a new beginning.
Q. Do any of the women fall into a stereotype?