Van Helsing Film Analysis
Abraham Van Helsing is one of the characters in the Stokers novel Dracula. The significance is that Bram Stokers first name is a short version of Abraham. Van Helsing is more of a classic movie archetype.
He wears a black cape, black coat and black hat. Also owns a duster, like one of those western dusters but its black. He in sense is an outsider. He’s not a monster as Frankenstein. He is still viewed a something not normal, but something out of the ordinary.
This movie falls into the genre of action/horror/fantasy. It contains various frightening images and sensuality which all have different meanings. Horror is an index of ‘fright’, which we are portrayed throughout the movie. The audience at first will not know of it being a horror movie, the incidents tend to build up and further on scary monsters are shown.
The first fifteen minutes of Van Helsing are promising, a black and white prologue depicting mad scientist Frankenstein and his monstrous creation is a nice little homage to the universal pictures of past times. The opening scene is also iconic of Horror such as the old movie ‘blood’ which was made in 1974.This movie was a horror but with a complete different story. A Werewolf in 1930s London teams up with Dracula’s son. There are loads of gruesome gory scenes they are far from the advanced and high technology effect in Van Helsing. Blood was a quality movie for its originality and style. The main icons in Van Helsing are Van himself, Dr.Hyde.Dracula and the Werewolf. Van Helsing is the main source of the movie; he is one of the key icons as his actions reflect on all the other characters.
When Van Helsing is in the laboratory of the Roman Church he sees the portrait of Count Dracula, Valerious the Elder, Boris Valerious, Prince Velkan and Princess Ann all these are icons because they represent themselves.
The 3 brides of brides of Dracula are a possible surprise highlight of the film turning from beautiful women to ugly creatures. At the point one of his brides dies, the other two go back to Dracula and weep in sorrow as of his anger. The sound used is a loud echoing of cries which changes into more of a pleasuring snivel. This point is actually when we see Dracula for the first time, he is in an icy coffin and dressed in pure black. This is a further icon of evil and the icy coffin is a connotation of his icy heart which he does not have as he says himself.
The Dracula is another important icon presented in the movie, it portrays evil and darkness. It is actually him who will condemn the whole family to eternal damnation if Ann dies before him .Van Helsing I s an icon because of its goodness and clarity. Here two characters collide, and they continue to through the movie. Up until the point they are faced with each other at the end.
The movie has very sharp edges to it and thought out ideas. ‘Blood’ is just alike, as its plentiful and the effects are precise. This is a sign of danger, death and sorrow. Not in all murders sorrow is shown, only Ann Valerious shows affection for her brother who turns into a werewolf. This is an index as both Anna and ‘werewolf’ shares a bond not of hatred but some sort of understanding. In a way he is presented as a victim, the original stories portray the wolf man as a helpless victim who is not an evil creature out for destruction but more a lost soul out simply to be able to exist.
There are several components, which link all family relations .The necklace; insignior and ring are all indexical as they all represent a bond between the families.
The link between the werewolf and the moon is indexical to the viewer, whereas to the werewolf the moon is symbolic as every time he sees it he turns into a werewolf. We are shown this several times through the film. The Crucifixes and holy water are religious symbols of Christianity.
Vans introduction to Transylvania was with some benefits of some neat angles and panning shots, this is a technical code. Once Van arrives in the village we can see that the use of light has changed this is done on purpose as it is an index of darkness and to make the audience aware that they are in the kingdom of Dracula. The reason for the atmosphere change is just that, the light is dull and dim throughout the movie, a further technical code.
Within this movie there is only hero Van Helsing. Most action movies have their own different heroes, which fight evil and have a woman beside them. It gives that extra advantage on the suicide, which makes the movie great. This itself is an index of most movies in this case Van Helsing and Ann Valerious share a special bond. The two characters are not typical leading men and lady, which again gives the movie a quite refreshing edge.
The movement of Dr.Hydes eye shout is extremely precise at the beginning when he is hanging down from ceiling right onto Van Helsings face, which is a very nice shot.
The intro shot of Count Dracula is when Dr.Frankenstein turns facing the window. First of all you have a (MD) mid shot from the side then it cuts and is edited to a (MS) of the front of count Dracula and lastly the camera moves up close giving a nice (CU) close up shot. All of these above are also technical codes.
After Dr.Frankenstein tries to escape and the camera moves to an overhead point of view, which then gives us a nice view of Dr.Frankensteins laboratory. As the thunderstorm strikes we view 2 faces of Dracula one being not human. (CU)
Just like the olden movies, the shadow is used when count Dracula kills Dr.Frankenstein. This is similar to the scene in ‘horror of Dracula’.
Another visual effect is used when Dracula gets up from the fireplace and walking towards the camera going from a (MS) to a (CU). His flesh is burned but recreates to normal in seconds, it is very enlivening to witness, as it is a technical code.
The opening shot of Van Helsing is an ECU shot but only showing his eyes, as the rest is not shown because of the hat and the scarf wrapped around the face.
Dracula’s Bride’s deaths are very distinctive SFX’s as one dissolves, one burns and one explodes in a very peculiar way. Exactly similar to the bats which also explode in the same way. They all look like Count Dracula’s form and shape.
A further incident when we witness a very well constructed SFX is when Prince Velkan turns into a werewolf. First his muscles increase, which then results in the ripping of his skin. It looks very painful and the use of sound gives it that edge which makes us shrug.
The final battle consists of numerous special effects and use of sound. Van Helsing
‘ The fallen angel’ turns into a werewolf and the Dracula into the mutant that he is. The Dracula is in a helpless position and tells Gabrielle that they could be ‘brothers in arms’.
The Elizabethan women were very obedient and appointing at that point of time in society. We see that woman are mostly covered and stay obedient to their husbands and were covered from head to toe and did not dare to show anything. Anna is very different as she is strong and willing to fight for her family. This is an icon of her character being strong and courage. In the Transylvanian village people are dressed in very dull and worn out colours this is an index of the day-to-day life. Back in the Elizabethan times women were mainly housewives and took care of their husbands and children. The men struggled working, people lived everyday the same .It was melancholic and sad, which was another reason why the people lived how they did.
The scene with the masquerade ball, all the people dancing are dressed very formally. Most dark colours are spread across the room with the exception of Anna Valerious in bright red to outline her importance in the movie. Everyone is wearing masks and hiding their faces. The woman begins to sing an eerie opera, which makes the whole event very melancholic. The dress code is also another technical code.
There are various forms of meanings throughout this movie. Every scene, incident and character has various symbolisms and thoughts put in. The plot is not the strongest, but the special effects and incredible pace of the film does not really give you much chance to contemplate any deeper meaning or plotlines. It is infact a disadvantage as the movie is so much more and has so much thought put into it that the audience should have more of a benefit to learn about all these religious signs, bonds and icons. The movie develops from one event to another, which rises consistently during the story. It is a very smooth track to the climax. The images portrayed are formed through the signs, bonds and icons, which present the movie clearer and more in-depth.
Preferred Reading of this text is Hugh Jackman playing a monster hunter who is sent to Transylvania to stop Count Dracula who is using Dr Frankenstein research and a werewolf for some evil purposes. He does this with the help of a local vampire hunter called Anna Valerious, which is played by Kate Beckinsale. Both shadow the Dracula who is searching for Frankenstein’s monster. (Shuler Hensley). The monster seems to be very good with electricity and Dracula needs his help to give birth to a swarm of baby vampires.
Negotiated Reading of this would be the scene with the coach chase. It was thrilling without being exhilarating, but kept the run going. So it’s a shame some more badly plot gets thrown in, above all when it was relating the underwritten Velkan. That is the films major problem, overkill of characters, with little space given to any of them to develop.
Oppositional Reading of this movie may be that some scenes are not appropriate with an audience of 12 years .It contains certain factors of very pivotal arguments, which youngsters of this age would not understand. Furthermore, these very vital points have been presented in this film to shine through when watching, but of a younger audience it would not be the movie that it is supposed to be. It is simply the question of making a movie that is understood and which people can compare to older Dracula movies.
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