An experimental retelling of the Dracula story, now so familiar that the film can forego dialogue until the end of the film, where Christopher Lee, who plays Dracula reads us the end of the novel. The film was shot during the making of Jesús Franco’s Dracula/ Conde Drácula (for Hammer) and is at once the telling of the story, with very beautiful, haunting and effective imagery, and also a deconstruction of the cinematic practices that go into the cinematic telling.
The film looks gorgeous. It’s shot in black and white, and there seems to have been some play in the developing of the stock as some of the shots have a partial inversion so that it has the look of the black and white negative (see below).
The film is about Dracula but it is also about deconstructing the practices of visual story-telling, so we get beautiful lit and haunting imagery, with fascinating shot compositions that seem to focus on light (see below):
But that also show the tools that go into filmmaking (cameras, special effects, the backs of sets, lights, make-up).
This culminates at the end with a series of flowing zooms where we see Christopher Lee take off his Dracula make-up:
…but was indicated from the very beginning:
Steve Marsh points out in his excellent piece on Portabella, The Legacies of Pere Portabella: Between Heritage and Inheritance (Hispanic Review , AUTUMN 2010, Vol. 78, No. 4, pp. 551-567): ”cua de cue is Catalan for “worm’s tail” — a resonant description of a projection of excess –but it is also a term for the unexposed footage at the end of a roll of film (coletazo in Castilian). Clearly that in its own right suggests a supplement, an addition, and one that reflects the very materiality of film’ (p.555).
The soundtrack is very beautiful and playful as well, sometimes just haunting ambient sound, sometimes excerpts from what seem to be jazz standards and opera; later on towards the end, the effect of a broken record starting and stopping again, and the only dialogue that of Christopher Lee at the very end of the film explaining how the death of Dracula is narrated in only 15 lines in the novel.
A film about light and darkness, about sights and sounds; a film about Dracula; a film about cinema also; and a Pere Portabella film that leaves one with the desire to see many more Pere Portabella films. It’s currently playing on MUBI.
An excellent article by Rosalind Galt contextualising Pere Portabella’s work and indeed that of the ‘Barcelona School’ , both in national and international aesthetic and political currents, may be accessed here.