The 12th FMF: Dracula Live in Concert
The screen adaptation of the famous novel by the Irish writer Bram Stoker was the only joint venture of Francis Ford Coppola and Wojciech Kilar. The reason why the Hollywood giant decided to cooperate with a composer from Katowice has become a legend with time: according to some, financial issues influenced his decision, according to others – admiration for the music from Andrzej Wajda’s The Promised Land. Kilar himself promoted a theory according to which Coppola invited him to participate in his super-production for skill and aesthetic reasons. “He needed a symphonic composer with film experience, hence this choice. Although the version with The Promised Land is also possible, because as we met for the first time in his house in San Francisco, my waltz played over and over, in every room. I cursed myself, Wajda and the whole film in general...”, recalled Wojciech Kilar.
The director’s famous night phone call with the “offer that couldn’t be refused” took place in the autumn of 1991, at a time when Kilar intended to end his adventure with film. Acceptance of the commission not only changed his plans, but also opened the door to his beloved American cinema and initiated the most spectacular stage of his creative life. The filming of Dracula started a few days later and lasted until the end of January 1992. Editing started in February and ended in September 1992. The composer, struggling with a serious heart illness at the time, visited the set only once: he watched the scene in which Mina writes a letter to Jonathan. During the course of eight months, thirty-three draft versions of the film passed through his hands, modified and cut without sentiments, depending on the response of the test audience. As a result of test screenings, Coppola re-edited the film dozens of times, shortening it by almost twenty minutes (the actual running time is two hours and eight minutes) and throwing out scenes that the audience did not like (including extremely laborious sequences of Mina’s seduction of Van Helsing or Harker’s exploration of the castle in Transylvania).
Ultimately, Bram Stoker’s Dracula – the 39th adaptation of the story of the Romanian vampire in the history of world cinema – is a film story with a theatrical aura, close to the literary prototype (hence the name of the novelist in the title). Coppola did not used digital technology, basing the set design and costumes solely on the talent and capabilities of living people. In order to make the dialogues more credible, he asked the cast (which included stars such as Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Tom Waits, Sadie Frost and Monica Bellucci) to read Stoker’s Dracula aloud, splitting it up into inidual roles. He expressed clear expectations in relation to the music – it was supposed to be spectacular and maintained in the Wagnerian convention, last seventy-five minutes and talk about the generally understood sin and God’s mistake. Kilar created a cantata for a mixed choir and a symphony orchestra, using themes taken from his symphonic masterpieces, Victoria and Angelus. He based the soundtrack on four leitmotifs, describing the suffering of Dracula the man, the demonic character of Dracula the vampire, the love of the Count and Elisabeta, and the femininity and coquetry of Lucy (the last theme, based on a telephone waiting signal heard by the composer in Paris, was written when Kilar visited in the Columbia Pictures studio, at the director’s special request).
Coppola’s super-production was released in November 1992 and, like The Godfather twenty years earlier, pulled his American Zoetrope production company out of debt. In total, the film earned two hundred and fifteen million dollars, with a budget more than five times smaller. In 1993, Bram Stoker’s Dracula won three Oscars – for best costumes, makeup and sound editing. Wojciech Kilar’s music was distinguished by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
The world premiere of the concert version of Francis Ford Coppola’s horror film, scheduled for mid-May 2019, will be a milestone in the history of the Film Music Festival in Krakow. “This is another international title fully commissioned by the FMF, which will fill the global space of ambitious audio-visual productions. Earlier, we introduced such masterpieces as Perfume. The Story of a Murderer, Kon-Tiki. High Seas Adventure and The Neverending Story. We will reach for Dracula together with our friends from the FIMUCITÉ International Film Music Festival”, announced Robert Piaskowski, artistic director of the FMF.
According to Robert Townson, a producer of film music, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is an ideal film to present live. “Dracula Live in Concert is, in a sense, the fulfilment of Francis Ford Coppola’s destiny and dreams, who wanted the score for his film to be performed symphonically. The director said, ‘I want great music. Not just theatrical, but great!’ This is a quote from 1991, which becomes reality in 2019.
Pedro J. Mérida, producer of the FIMUCITÉ festival, added that it was the colourful, multidimensional vision of the novel, achieved on screen by the director and composer, that created the perfect balance between the artistic value and commercial success of the film. “Kilar’s masterpiece has its own inidual role here – it is not only the main character, but also a film vampire, who will haunt the audience for decades to come”, Mérida said.
We invite you to a simultaneous screening of Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with live music by Wojciech Kilar, on 15 May 2019 in the Krzysztof Penderecki Auditorium Hall at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre. Dracula Live in Concert will be performed by the Beethoven Academy Orchestra and the Polish Radio Choir. The musicians will be led by American composer and conductor Don Davis – author of the soundtrack to the Matrix series.
Text: Maria Wilczek-Krupa