American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Think of the monstrous ego of the vampire. He thinks himself so important that he is willing to live forever, even under the dreary conditions imposed by his condition. Avoiding the sun, sleeping in coffins, feared by all, he nurses his resentments. In "Bram Stoker's Dracula," the new film by Francis Ford Coppola, the vampire shakes his fist at heaven and vows to wait forever for the return of the woman he loves. It does not occur to him that after the first two or three centuries he might not seem all that attractive to her.
The film is inspired by the original Bram Stoker novel, although the author's name is in the title for another reason (Another studio owns the rights to plain "Dracula"). It begins, as it should, with the tragic story of Vlad the Impaler, who went off to fight the Crusades and returned to find that his beloved wife, hearing he was dead, had killed herself. And not just killed herself, but hurled herself from a parapet to a stony doom far below, in one of the many spectacular shots which are the best part of this movie.
Vlad cannot see the justice in his fate. He has marched all the way to the Holy Land on God's business, only to have God play this sort of a trick on him. (Vlad is apparently not a student of the Book of Job.) He embraces Satan and vampirism, and the action moves forward to the late Victorian Age, when mankind is first beginning to embrace the gizmos (phonographs, cameras, the telegraph, motion pictures) that will dispel the silence of the nights through which he has waited fearfully for centuries.
Coppola's plot, from a screenplay by James V. Hart, exists precisely between London, where this modern age is just dawning, and Transylvania, which still sleeps unhealthily in the past. We meet a young attorney (Keanu Reeves) who has been asked to journey out to Dracula's castle to arrange certain real estate transactions. The previous man who was sent on this mission ran into some sort of difficulties . . . health or something . . . all rather vague . . .