It should be extremely difficult to play on all the themes Stoker awakens within Dracula so the best form of adaptation would be to borrow such themes in a way to create a new story. Nosferatu does this splendidly, with its play on shadows and using the technology of the day to play with the negatives and light exposure. Because the genius lies in the filmic technique and less on the storyline let's focus there.
To begin, the music score follows the progression of the plot. There is a theme for Johnathan and another for Nosferatu, which does what it means to do, which is to scare the wits out of the audience. The music helps in conveying the idea of spectatorship because the music that signifies Nosferatu is invoked before he is actually seen so there is always that idea of being watched. The techniques used just to portray Nosferatu as a creepy monster are amazing. For one, he has big hands and is an extremely skinny man. To help this, when he walks his arms stay below his waist and do not move and his long legs barely move. It gives this idea of him gliding way before the techniques could be used. Nosferatu's confined movements give this idea that he is an extremely constrained character, even more so than his limitations to the light of day.
Instead of showing Nosferatu claim his victims straight on, the camera instead turns to the wall and his shadow instead is used to portray how he engulfs his victims. Besides Nosferatu, whose characters exists within itself, the other characters must be overexaggerated to portray emotion because the film is silent and text can only do so much. Within the light and dark motif differences are made between nature and civilization, between old and new and prisonment which is seen in various ways through the movie.
First there is the constrained nature of Nosferatu himself, and the physical imprisonment of Renfield, to the actual imprisonment of Johnathan, to the figurative imprisonment of Nina. There is also the dichotomy of movement and constrainment which is portrayed in various ways from the wagon speeding to the castle, to Nosferatu's ability to barely move at all, to Nina who is later entrapted in the room while Nosferatu is watching. Happiness is portrayed through movement and likewise fear in this film is known to barely move at all. To help this idea of entrapment, a circular lens is used. Also, transitions are the old familiar circular fade in and out. This film is the starter to other Dracula films that follow similar portrayals of shadows, light and staggered movements.
Overall this film is an example of older movies that pay alot more attention to detail to get the point across. More recent 19th Century British films do not do fairly as well because emphasis sits on the sexual or romantic. Usually, until Dracula, the romantic which was this whole progression of propriety to sexuality and bizarre.

Nosferatu Clip

Bram Stoker's Dracula

To say the least, this film represents the greatest, but necessary, deviation from 19th Century based films. The film featured everything that 19th Century was and was not which is an important distinction to make because it is relevant to recognize the difference of Stoker's novel as compared to all other novels. Bram Stoker's Dracula was overtly sexual, horridly vivid, and greatly disturbing. To say the least it is a work unto itself once you get beyond all the nitty gritty blood play because to do Coppola credit there are some very clever techniques used which everyone pushes aside because they do not understand the filmmaker's intent.
For one, the film shows Dracula's dissertion of religion which is seen throughout the play. Dracula does not adhere to any religious icons, he recognizes them yet it is evident that he not be a part of them. Unlike his brides, the cross still means something to Dracula which is why he shies away when it is revealed on Johnathan's chest. Superstition also plays an important role which is seen with the importance of the garlic, the cross, and any other religious icons. In this film because of his inability to adhere to any transcendent hope in God he becomes a matryr. There is this desire to be born again, which we see with his love interest in Mina, who apparently in this film was reincarnated to meet him again.
Science, or any advancement to reflect the culture of the times is also used effectively. There are tools used, with the transfusion of blood, the early film which was a clever way to relate to the times and the phonograph which we see John Seward use to record his diary. This film give a distint idea of place, that the film does exist within the 19th Century, however expounding the boundaries, but the open busy city cet does well to reflect the place.
Let's get to Coppola. We can not discount the fact that he is an extraordinary director and because of this there are very clever parts in the play that reflect his genius. Forget the horrific acting. Forget the brutal blood play and whatever theme was used to make the film creepy. That is the point. We need to look at the film objectively to see where the genius lies. Let's also push away the sexual elements because yes they're there and we acknowledge that and it is evident that Coppola specifically wanted to objectify the women so forget breasts.
Let's go back then shall we where we don't look at the breasts but at the man behind the camera.
To help the understanding of this scene, it is listed below on the previous blog so do not fret in checking it out! The scene opens with Jonathon narrating from his diary. Already we see the play of light and darkness. A light illuminates his face while the rest of him is cast in shadow. A subtle shadow of the hand moves down a column before the camera turns below to look at Jonathon following his silhouette and shadow. The importance is darkness, obviously and do not forget the music which is also eerie. Light flickers around the room which again emphasizes the importance of darkness. Inside the room, to give a sense of oldness there are cobwebs and beautiful ancient bottles of perfume.
Note the way Coppola relates the perfume to the brides, they first speak after Jonathon notes the bottles so the perfume acts as a signifier for the women’s presence. Now we get to the sexual. We hear moaning and see a bed. which is evident is all about sex. The audience should know by know what Jonathan is getting himself into. To create the mood, not that mood (well, perhaps that mood), fog hovers over the bed and you can’t really see where the bed ends which is good for the ladies because they can just hover themselves out of it. Now we have the blatantly sexual, the boobs, the tongues, the voices which we can all discount because the point is sex. At least we’re not objectifying the women, the focus lies on their faces and what they’re doing to Jonathan. It is interesting to see how Coppola pick up this objectification from the novel because in the novel the women are portrayed as sexual, Coppola is just taking sexuality to the level that Stoker could not because of the times. Cut to Dracula entering. He flies into the room, smoke and all, to assert his power over the women. So there is this duality of sexual power and then male dominance which both imprison Jonathan. The costumes are pretty well done, the women are decorated in jewels and muslin from the waist down, and Dracula is pretty blatantly dressed in red. His hair does have sexual undertones but we get the idea that he is old and creepy.
It is interesting how the movie sometimes has Dracula and his wives move in such an erratic way as to suggest this mobility that exists outside the social norm. So again, forget about the sexuality it is only there to make a point so recognize the way Coppola is making the film creepy. In making this film it is as though Coppola knew of his directing achievements and had no qualms about making a film he knew would make society gag. So remember, the colors used, the costumes, the light and darkness and the sexuality are all used to portray horrific traits in mankind so in a way the film is meant to be bad because it is so different.

Coppola Clips

Coppola, the filmic genius gone wrong but oh so right.

Oliver Twist

I have to say that sometimes after reading a novel it becomes extremely difficult to watch the film adaptation because the more recent films focus more on maintaining the essence of the novel. That means, most of the story is bypassed in trying to do too much with the plot so it seems more of a way to fit things in than it does to make an actual film. That said, there is not much freedom in this film because much of it is to follow the novel to a T. So instead I mean to follow how Polanski uses Oliver Twist as a means to reawaken Dickens' sentiment. One thing to note is the differences between the wealthy and the poor. The colors change once Oliver runs off to London and then again when he gets to the city. Earlier than that, the workhouse is all gray with God is Love stamped on the back wall of the cafeteria. So there we see early Dickens sentiment, the idea that God will do well by you.
One significant part that I marked in the film was the scene where Oliver demands some more food. Yes, we all know that scene but this one I found markedly different because it portrayed Dickens' irony by contrasting the workhouse cafeteria to the wealthy benefactors who are eating a great feast of pretty foods. Mr. Bumble dashes in to announce that Oliver has demanded more food in which the reply he receives is one that considers it completely unnecessary and selfish to demand more food. Ironic, huh?
What I liked best in this film were the many notions of family. You first see the hostile female and benevelonet husband that take Oliver in. Then there is Mr. Brownlow and the maid, Fagin and the boys, Nancy and Bill Sikes. The film gives this idea of belongingness which is constantly reversed as Oliver switches hands throughout the film. It also gives this idea that Oliver has choice with where he decides to stay and he picks those that he most belongs to. Which is interesting because Oliver belongs most to Mr. Brownlow because he is a kind, intelligent old man, completely disregarding the fact that he is wealthy. Nancy, Sikes and Bulls Eye are most removed from the dynamics of family because they work towards their own selfish needs, although Nancy does redeem herself by helping Oliver find a home. Fagin and the boys work more as a pseudo family because you get the vibe that Fagin means well by the boys and wants to protect them but this is completely disregarded when he has a need to protect himself.
The film itself, apart from adapting a novel that has been quite overdone, has little to say in originality. The film is inconsistent in keeping with the story, it does so well as to render key points confusing unless you've read the novel, and other points are too dark to display as a true family movie. For one, the death scene of Nancy was way too brutal for kids to see and could have been glossed over, and the death scene with Bill Sikes is also too much for children. Oliver's upward mobility in social classes is also questionable because there is no explanation and because there was no narrative to be used as an explanation, as is the case in the novel. Oliver is not portrayed as a child, in fact he can barely be characterized at all because the actor is so lackluster.

Oliver Twist - The Artful Dodger

Vanity Fair

Seductive, sacrificial, martyr are all characteristics that define Becky Sharp in Mira Nair’s Vanity Fair. Characters in this adaptation are heroes; they have spines and are quite unlike the one dimensional characters in the written form of Vanity Fair. Besides the behavior which transforms Becky and Amelia to victims of wartime and gambling, there are signifiers in dress, decorum, and music. Becky is assigned the color red, she is most striking, or seductive, when dancing or singing which allows Becky more freedom while constraining her at the same time. There is juxtaposition in the film between the idea of freedom and entrapment, this idea that no matter what the class distinction there is still the idea of an overarching patriarchy. Becky is free because she has choice but this choice she gains within the salary of the wealthy benefactors she meets along the way. In this way, Becky Sharp is objectified because she becomes a purely sexual object in the realm of wealthy society. The extravagances in her dress, which contrast the other women who are almost always dressed in white, offset her deviant nature which is quite outside society. In Mira Nair's film, Becky becomes are purely sexual object, which is helped with the colorful motifs that relate more to an Indian culture than to the English culture that focuses on propriety and manners.
What is interesting in the film is the way Becky is used to fight sexual objectification in her clever ways of using the gentleman and also the way she is portrayed in the end as a matryr. The end explains it all with the choice to end the film right at India, which appears to be Becky's goal throught the film. Atleast, that is how it seems with the bright colors and wondrous peacocks that make their way through the film. In the film it seems as though Becky's ending is deserved, that she has earned her place by Joseph Sedley's side. Her migration from England to India is just another way of saying that she was too much of an outsider to exist within that society so the solution was to displace her within in a culture where she could fit in. Her evil nature is completely misunderstood as somebody who does not fit in so forget all those hideous portraits of her in darkness slowly killing her husband. In the ending it is also interesting to see how irrelevant Amelia's life is. It was kind of the screenwriter to give her a bit more character but in doing so they had to cut her significantly from the plot. Amelia is no longer the poor innocent angel, she is a slightly boring young woman who follows along the plot.
Becky, instead, drives the plot and runs it along with her ambitious, not to say malevolent, desire to get ahead in life. She is a tease, a wonder and talent to look at which is why in this film Becky is the victim. She is too much objectified to be protagonist because she is the manipulater and the manipulated in the great scheme of playing men off to gain a fortune.
Now that the themes have been established its important to see how filmic techniques were used to create such a visual. Color has already been discussed as a means to show Becky's deviance from the social norm, and also the means in portraying India as the other culture that dimly exists within England. Thus, color is used to portray a progression, to show that Becky does not fit the norm that exists with all the women wearing the extremely familiar white gown that offsets her blood red. Besides color, even the camera is used in a way to objectify Becky and make her into a sexual object. One shot goes to show her looking at herself through the mirror while her husband stands behind her. Many of the shots focus first on the breasts, on the hands and the whole portrait of her body instead of her face. Men are seen always in the full body shot in a way that reflects their economic superiority. Becky is always dressed in extravagance and the men always dressed impeccably as if there's no other way to stand next to Becky. Even the soundtrack and dance have Indian undertones and Becky's dance spoke more of the nature of women and the dance in Pride and Prejudice than it does elsewhere as compared to other 19th Century related films. In all, Becky is an overtly sexual object, and is used by women and men as a means of spectatorship and objectification which is portrayed through filmic techniques.