1932, just before the beginning of the dramatic Nazi nightmare. Another vampire film. Yes indeed. But this one has something special, an ambiance that is more modern, that is different. What is it? First the rhythm is slow, a lot slower than usual in such films. No haste, no running, no hectic chase or race. Just the slow time of a village, and yet that village has something mysterious, people going around in the dark, bells ringing to call the ferry boat that is going to take the farmer and his scythe to the other side of this Styx river. Death seems to be everywhere and the director is mixing the technique of the silent film with pages of written explanations, and a little bit of the talkie already, here and there, but so little, though the camera is definitely the modern camera of the time and it provides a very good picture. The most surprising element is here that the vampire is absolutely unseen, unknown of anyone, invisible and well hidden, and that vampire has an obvious servant, a ghoul in the place. And the whole story turns around some old book given to the young Allan Gray by some old man before dying. The book that is so important in so many of Dracula's tales, films or other, though it is not that important, at least less important, in the archetypical book by Stam Broker. And the vampire hunters come to the idea that the vampire is some old woman who was a monster when alive and was refused any Christian rite when she died. The vampire is thus the asocial person, the one who was rejected and rejectable in her or his, its life time. And they will go on changing things to make them nearly more normal and no wood of any sort will be used to hammer through the heart of that vampire, but an old good iron stake and that vampire is a woman with the "predestined" name of Marguerite Chopin that has no connection, close or distant, with Dracula. And the ghoul, utmost surprise, is the local doctor who is putting to sleep the victims of the vampire, so that she can come in the middle of the night and find no resistance. And here again his end is funny: he gets drowned in flour in a watermill. But the film has one more characteristic that makes it different. The characters are speaking little but they are expressing a lot more than you could imagine with their body language and their facial language. It's beautiful and at the same time so natural in its artistic way, less demonstrative than Fritz Lang and yet just as expressive. Obviously the conventions were changing with the arrival of talking films, of another level of expression. It is true that it owes a lot to Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg's performance in the film but it also explains why Hitchcock considered it as a masterpiece of his time, one of the films that had made him what he became. A true classic in one word.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
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