The Brides, movie theme from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”
Kilar’s music performs several important functions in this Francis Ford Coppola film. First, it is used to characterize the main dramatis personae: the eponymous Count Dracula (Gary Oldman), immortal though very tired of life (dramatic theme) and his new love, Mina (Winona Ryder), fiancée of Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves), a London-based solicitor (hers is a lyrical theme). Secondly, the music is to make the action more dynamic, which means frequent overlapping of various motifs. In addition, the film's musical layer is a model example of so-called sound design, which is to say the highly creative, even compositional, approach to sounds, often entering into dialogue with the original music.
As the Columbia Records CD tells us of the score, Kilar wrote 16 pieces for Dracula, though in fact they are variants of five themes. The film begins with the dramatic theme (The Beginning), accompanying the story of the Count's birth as a vampire, with a crescendo from swaying double basses with repeated piano octaves below the full orchestra, with cries of the brass at the top. All this gives way at the conclusion to a vocalise and choir chanting a Latin text, from whisper to fortissimo.
The action of the film initially unfolds in two places simultaneously: London and Transylvania. In the former, the solicitor Harker’s fiancée is staying with her wealthy and eccentric friend, Lucy (Sadie Frost), to whom the composer assigns a theme for celesta and harp (Lucy’s Party), seemingly idyllic but with an undercurrent of anxiety. When Harker is imprisoned in the vampire’s castle, he finds himself in the power of attractive female demons, who bite him to the tune of the dramatic theme arranged for string orchestra with harps and percussion (The Brides). In the meantime, London is struck by a fierce thunderstorm heralding the arrival of the vampire, whose envoy attacks Lucy in a scene again accompanied by motoric scraps of the same theme (The Storm): low notes of the piano with timpani and choir, which at the climactic moment is drowned by an uproar of wind instruments and a string cluster.
Finally, the Transylvanian count appears as a much younger sel, and flirts, quite successfully, with Mina, Harker’s fiancée, while the solicitor is absent. This is where we hear the full lyrical theme (Love Remembered), woven by flute against a background of velvety strings and harp, like a series of sighs and glances given by the increasingly enamoured Mina to the exotic stranger. It is worth noting that the theme first appears as a vocalise with bassoon and violin, which we hear when Dracula sees a photograph carried by his London visitor of Mina looking uncannily like his own fiancée, who died tragically centuries earlier (Mina’s Photo), and achieves its full expression in the double basses and cellos during a vampiric encounter between the lovers (Mina/Dracula).
However, these lyrical interludes are rare oases of peace in this extremely dynamic film, which becomes even more so with the appearance of the eccentric Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins), with his recipes for destroying demons. This begins the hunt for Dracula and his not-quite-dead victim. At this point, the third important theme enters: the increasingly dynamic, richly scored march (Vampire Hunters), with Kilar’s favourite rhythm in the accompaniment (four semiquavers, two crotchets) and with melody carried by the tuba then by the entire brass section, or various wind ensembles (The Hunters Preludes) or cellos with snare drum (The Hunt Builds). When the forces of darkness take the form of a greenish mist, it is illustrated with the main theme in a delicate arrangement for tremolo strings (The Green Mist).
The film's finale takes place, as the arch-type form of Coppola’s work would have it, in Dracula’s Transylvanian castle, where the vampire hunters arrive in advance of the Count to lay a trap for him. The professor, escorting Mina, must face demons at a mountain pass, which is conveyed by the most audacious piece in the film: a string cluster merged with choral whispers and laughter of female vampires, all of which is processed in accordance with sound-design principles (The Ring of Fire). Significantly, when Harker had reached the same spot at the film's beginning, we heard a fascinating sonic “collage” of wolves howling, horses neighing and other sounds.
In the dramatic final confrontation, the brave vampire hunters nearly slash Dracula’s throat; the Count escapes to the castle with Mina, who is in love with him, somewhat to the consternation of the good-natured Harker. Once again, we hear the lyrical theme (Love Eternal): a vocalise and very spiritual choir, which when Mina strikes the Count the final merciful blow (Dracula does manage to die, thanks to love!) reaches a luminous major chord in a beautiful cadenza (Ascension).