This is the second edition for this month. Gotta keep the momentum going, and keep up with the chronological order. This time we’re jumping forward from 1993 to 2002! A rather intense follow up being the full band participating as the core cast. None other then Malice Mizer in Bride of Rose, which is the Visual-kei take on the classic Dracula.
Bride of Rose ~The Promise Exchanged at Midnight~ (Bride of Rose) is film stylized like a silent film, and an adaptation of Dracula. The added bonus is the story comes with both Japanese and English captions for dialogue, score! So let’s quickly review this adaptation’s story:
Klaha and Cecil are engaged and currently living in London, with their wedding a week away. Klaha is summoned to Romania to work, and postpones their wedding by two weeks, summoned by the Count of Dracula (Yu~ki). In London, Mana is a nun that serves the church Klaha and Cecil intend to be wed in. She and the church hold a secret, that Kozi the resident vampire lives in the basement. As Klaha is off in Romania, he realized that Yu~ki’s intentions are not as pure as his love for Cecil and the story unfolds.
I summarized this story without spoilers, but admittedly the plot is very thin. I’ve seen this film twice now, but without the wikipedia page I was still lost about certain scenes and elements. I’m not familiar with Dracula as a novel aside from the vampiric elements, so I’m not sure how well this holds up as an adaptation. However, the bigger problem is the story offers no context for anything. The viewer is just thrown into the situation, which is pretty intense to start, and then builds backwards.
The problem with this is that no context is built in a meaningful way. If you aren’t already invested in one or all of the members of Malice Mizer, you will not care about any of the characters in this film. Why should we care about Klaha and Cecil’s relationship? Same with the vampire character. They’re there, doing whatever, but nothing more.We’re shown through flashbacks, cut scenes, why the characters ended up where they are now, but there’s nothing compelling about it.
What doesn’t help the story, is then the pacing. I anticipated this being another art house style execution with more gothic aristocratic elements. The idea of which could have been really cool if it had been done right, but it wasn’t. The pacing of the story is clunky and slow. They pad the story with aesthetic scenes that don’t hold any significance in the story, or repetitive actions of the characters just to prove the point. Take a shot every time Kozi finds a new girl to drink blood from, or Klaha is shown on horseback; You’ll be drunk in no time.
Then there’s the lighting of this story. It sets a very specific mood, but it does so poorly. We get it, it’s a gothic story. That does not mean that nearly 90% of this film needs to be shot in the pitch black, when all the characters are wearing black costumes on top of it. You can barely see movement at all, even if you watch this in the dark.
What worked well, was the framing used by the lighting. I’m not sure if it was the makeup itself of the select life sources, but faces really stood out in this film. Sometimes they were intentionally highlighted via candle light or other natural sources. Sometimes it was an unnatural source which made it all the more unsettling. Given that the subtle changes of expressions, and eye color were really important in the film, this gets a plus in my book.
Another positive for the most part was the ‘silent’ aspect of the film. This worked out well for two reasons. The first, was it gave the film more personality as a period piece then if it had been in sound. Original versions of Dracula on the big screen were black and white silent films after all. Secondly, it covered the fact that Mana at the time didn’t speak publicly often. It might also have been a nod to Mana in general, but it had style to it.
The dialogue cards that cut in to fill in gaps that would have been covered by speech were solid. They didn’t interrupt scenes often, and were left long enough on screen to be read in full. Big bonus points that they always had English and Japanese. The English was a product of it’s time, so machine translated, but was easy enough to naturalize it in your head while watching.
The sound design was also solid. Malice Mizer’s final album, Bara no Seidou served as the core musical score. In addition, “~Zenchou~” from their album Yoyage ~Sans Retour~ was also featured. These songs were altered a bit to fit the pace of the movie and scene of course, but it was pleasent enough. The producer really did their research with this project since silent films often had life accompaniment, so Malice Mizer’s music fit right in and added depth to scenes when it was timed just right.
Which is why it pains me that they made such strange decisions in the terms of sound design afterward. For being a silent film, they have a lot of unnatural noises added in. Pre-recorded hoof beats instead of the actual horse’s being used, certain items being soundless when moved, and others having sound effects added, little things like that were jarring. The biggest being that Klaha’s metal locket is soundless when falls, yet his metal knife gets an unsheathing sound added in later. These were clearly intentional, but incredibly odd choices made.
At my second time watching this film, it was a bit of a chore to finish. It certainly has style, and an image it was aiming for was successful. … when it was visible…. From what was stated in the ending credits, they did a fair amount of filming in Europe and not much on closed sets to really nail the locations. It’s a shame that the story and characters themselves, didn’t match up quality-wise to those aesthetics.
If you’re a Malice Mizer fan and haven’t seen this yet; it’s a must. You can search the title into google and you’ll get a watchable result, I promise. For those that aren’t into vampires, or Malice Mizer, this isn’t quite the film I’d recommend you to start your Visual kei journey with. However, it is a great piece of history for a very important band. If you too have seen this do let me know in the comments below, as I’m all ears for more discussion! Otherwise, as always, I’ll see you next post.