Much like Dracula at the beginning of the film, Jonathan is very much in love, and must leave his partner, this likeness between the two characters, starts to make us wonder if something bad is about to happen to Jonathan. But, when we see Jonathans partner, Mina, and she is the spitting image of Dracula’s true love, Elizobeta, this is when we get the omen, the real sense of something bad waiting to happen.
On Jonathans journey to Transylvania, we get the classic bridging shot, in this case a moving train, to give us the sense of time passing by. The whole scene is very dark; mostly everything is made up of dark reds, browns and black, not only that, the background music is also very bleak, almost evil. Following the mysteriousness of the first few scenes, in the sky outside, we see a huge pair of eyes, looking down onto Jonathans train. This very supernatural event could be seen as Dracula making completely sure that Jonathan gets to his castle and doesn’t get lost on the way, or change his mind, this just backs up our ideas that something dreadful is ready to happen.
Things don’t get any more normal when Jonathan arrives in Transylvania off the train; he travels a bit further towards the castle by coach, and after disembarking, he is handed a crucifix by another passenger, who says some words frantically in Romanian,(Translated as “for the dead travel fast). The passenger coach makes a speedy exit, leaving Jonathan alone, well, apart from the howling wolves that start to appear, obviously scaring him.
He is not alone for long though, because soon enough, the coach arranged to take him the rest of the way arrives, driven by a being, obviously non-human due to the way he bends his arm in such a manner, that no normal man could achieve. Even the horses pulling the carriage seem to move in a unnatural way, as though they are not actually touching the floor, rather floating just above it. At this point we realise that there is no turning back for Jonathan, on one side of this coach, there is a huge drop to certain death, the other side; a pack of wolves, looking ready to attack anything near to them, or in the way. Then when Jonathan is at his final few yards to the castle gates, he passes through a visible mystical barrier, we know there is no escaping.
When the coach leaves Harker alone outside of Dracula’s, we still have that classic ongoing gothic element of mystery, or a threatening feeling, as Jonathan seems totally overpowered by Dracula’s castle, if you compare the two, the castle is completely overshadowing Jonathan’s size, almost as though it is swallowing him whole. Not only that the shadows cast over him, engulf him completely; darkness seems to be coming over him, or trying to pull him in. The whole scene is set up to show there’s no way Jonathan can turn back, with wolves behind him he’s basically getting pushed into entering the castle, (without being physically pushed as he must enter through his own will) very much seductively, especially as the background music is full of very sexual moaning.
These few scenes use a lot of metonymy, mostly within the way that darkness is used a lot to represent evil, and the invitingness of the castle shown by the background moans. This is an important part of gothic films, the way images are used to represent or predict things to come, a good example being the very beginning of the film, where a large crucifix falls through the air, hitting the ground with a thud, into dust, this dust fogs over the cross until it is not visible, a portent that God will be thrown over, or fought against (Portents and omens being another huge part of Gothic films).
As Jonathan gets to the door of the castle, it opens by itself, yet more mysterious goings on, and an apparently old, feeble man invites him in. Jonathan sits at the table to dine alone, with Dracula walking around the room and table, this gives a sense of Dracula overpowering Harker, or being above him. Halfway through his meal, Jonathan snickers slightly at something said about Dracula and his ancestors, instantly the man we saw to be an old, fragile man, suddenly summons up a great strength, swinging a sword above his head, as he had done while renouncing God, screaming in rage, and points the tip at Harker, saying “It is no laughing matter. We Dracules have a right to be proud. What devil or witch was ever so great as Attila whose blood flows in these veins? Blood is too precious a thing in these times. The warlike days are over. The victories of my great race are but a tale to be told. I am the last of my kind”.
Later on in the castle library, everything seems to have calmed again, Dracula seems at peace, yet still not normal, as on the wall we see a small picture of Renfield, the man seen earlier in a mental asylum, this sets the viewers even more uneasy about Dracula, we are now just wondering what will happen, not if something might happen. While walking around the room, Dracula, physically, seems very calm, seems no threat at all to Jonathan, yet, his shadow is very unnaturally, now following his body, and seems to be threatening towards Harker, grabbing at his neck and so on.
When Dracula reaches over to see the picture of Mina, his shadow actually knocks the inkpot over, the ink inside the pot seems to spread, not as ink would, but more as though it were a black mist, and completely engulfs the picture of Mina, once again, a good use of a metonymy, showing that evil will be spread to Mina, and will take her in. The final image, is again, a portent of evil taking over, as Dracula is walking away, and lifts his cape, the shadow of the cape, gets a lot bigger than the object itself, and totally darkens out Jonathan.
In conclusion, I feel that within the first few scenes of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, if not within the first 15 minutes, the film incorporates most, if not all things needed to make a gothic film; There is a huge use of omens throughout, a lot of the film is set in a castle, the story is basically set on mystery and suspense, there is the great romance, the supernatural or unexplainable events, high emotions, plus Dracula is an ancient prophecy within himself. All these things lead us to the conclusion that Francis Ford Coppola has not only created on of the best film remakes of the original book to date, but, probably one of the best gothic films ever created.