The Canadian filmmaker guy Maddin is a modern rhapsodist of the silent-movie age. He’s hardly the first director to use irises, grainy film stocks, or flickering blooms of light and shadow to evoke the era before sound. What sets Maddin apart is his devotion to the primitive Victorian intensity of performers who had to rely on their faces as their only instruments of communication. In a short film like ”Heart of the World,” his justly celebrated homage to love, acrobats, and the grandeur of early Soviet idealism, Maddin’s technique found its perfect form.
In Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary, however, the very pull of Maddin’s aesthetic has a paradoxical effect. He seduces us with his facsimile of the herky-jerky gothic style of ”Nosferatu” and the nearly silent ”Vampyr” – movies in which the mystery of the late 19th century looms up, vampirically, before us. But you realize it’s all a big tease the moment it emerges that Maddin has draped these gorgeous atmospherics around…a ballet film. He collaborated with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, whose stage version of ”Dracula” appears to be marvelously inventive. I say appears, because we can’t quite see it. Maddin chops it up into a feature-length antique-bloodsucker video, and the result takes hold neither as dance nor as silent horror dream.