Monday, June 22, 2015

Zhang Wei-Qiang as Dracula

In an interesting run-down of the best Draculas on cinema over at Flavorwire, Alsion Natasi mentions Zhang Wei-Qiang. I haven't seen it yet, but it sounds like a film to check out.

"Zhang Wei-Qiang is one of the few non-white Draculas in cinema, cast by Guy Maddin in the 2002 film Pages from a Virgin’s Diary. The Chinese actor bridges the gap between new and old Dracula, bringing a mesmerizing elegance and sexuality to the character, made all the more hypnotic by Maddin’s engaging cinematography."

The rest of the rankings are also solid. It's in interesting role. I often wonder how we would approach the matter in Lao cinema and literature. In Thai cinema, there seems to be suggestions that Dracula appeared as early as 1979 in a story with a Phi Krasue although further research needs to be done to corroborate this. It would be curious to see when a book or a short story about Dracula reached Thailand, and when an original version from a Thai perspective came out.

In some ways, of course, I think there could be some interesting takes on Dracula in Laos if you linked it to the Nyak tradition, and took some elements from the story of Phra Lak, Phra Lam where the fierce Nyak king kidnaps the beautiful princess to his island fortress, which leads to an epic war. The Nyak are typically presented as a race of giant, flesh-eating, perverse warrior-sorcerers similar to the Rakshasa of Hindu/Buddhist legend. In later centuries, many have come to be protectors of Buddhist temples.

Upon consideration, though, there are several entities in Laos that could have an counterpart to Dracula, from a Nak or more likely the carnivorous Ngeuak, and the Phi Kasu. The challenge is, most Lao are cremated and motifs such as cemeteries would be pretty uncommon. The lack of major castles or fortresses would certainly also be an element that's a little out of place in Laos, although there are remote regions and areas where superstition and black magic are thought to be rampant.

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