As a disclaimer, I am warning you this article is a personal frustration towards the entire myth of my culture, it is the devil in me going out in the sunlight. No shining, though.
Obviously, what I’m writing about is movie Dracula Untold, but moreover, about how a small population’s historical legend is portrayed in a wrong way. (for the record, yes, I am Romanian, and my name has nothing to do with CeausESCU, the guy we murdered 26 years ago)
First of all, I don’t have anything against Luke Evans, the guy playing the blood-sucker Count Dracula, he’s a cool actor, we cool. But besides the Romanian names from the movie, nothing else reminds us of the origins of the story. I also know this wasn’t supposed to be a documentary or a historic movie, otherwise I would have browsed either Discovery Channel or History Viasat.
But come on, sometimes I just get sick of how Hollywood commercializes everything and turns ordinary into stupid. Sorry. Just because you’d think people would buy your movie simply due to its title (Dracula, wow, such a big deal, I bet people still believe he’s lingering somewhere in that dark place of Transylvania, the black hole of Middle Earth. Uhm Earth.) — doesn’t have to make you ignorant about what lies behind the story. Or at least shoot the scenes in Romania. (they’re filmed in Northern Ireland, by the way, and because Transylvania is such a big black hole, Dracula easily can teleport himself from one place to another, maybe to befriend Nessie not that far away in Scotland)
Why am I saying “ordinary”? Well, I sincerely hope that by now you figured out Count Dracula is not a vampire, and he’s also less of a hipster count that lived in a less fancier, more simpler, mediocre castle (and that’s nothing to be ashamed of, evidently). Let me introduce you a bit in the history.
“Once upon a time, there was the Kingdom of Romania, but hundreds of years before that, 3 smaller mini-kingdoms, called Wallachia, Transylvania and Moldavia. (reference from Wikimedia, but not very accurate) Peasant people wandered around that land, but they were true in their hearts, less brave in their asses. Medieval corruption and foreign sovereign prevented the three regions to unite their spirit and brothers into one country.
One day, in WALLACHIA, suddenly, Vlad (the Impaler) appears in the scene, forces of the nature give birth to this tremendous character. He got his name from his father, Vlad the Second Dracul, who was a member of the (supposedly) masonic Order of the Dragon, which aimed to protect Eastern Europe’s Christianity against barbarics. So probably stupid, poor, imbecile Romanian peasants had no idea what the order meant, and seeing the embleme, they associated his father with the Devil (Dracul). Vlad also had a brother, Radu — and both of them were sent to the Ottoman’s courts as tribute in vasality.
Vlad was born in Transylvania, but he ruled, later on, in Wallachia. It is true that Dracula’s castle — the ACTUAL castle the myth is associated with — is in Transylvania, but at the very close border with Wallachia. However, Vlad had its reign in Targoviste, probably a less interesting place.
The sole struggle of this mystic persona was keeping Wallachia out of the Ottoman empire. This is why, during his rule, he had to fight against inner and outer threats — meaning his own corrupt and treacherous companions at the royal court, but also his enemies, the Turks. Vlad refused many times to pay tribute and he was very stubborn, but had strong values of integrity and justice.
But justice isn’t quite what the movie “Dracula Untold” does to him. I feel in the movie they do not explore in depth the dark side of killing and impaling people. He is depicted in historic documents as very cruel and using various torture schemes to torment his enemies — as a sign of “you’re messing with me, bitch?”. This is where he got his lovely nickname from ‘Vlad the Impaler’, or Vlad Dracul — which was associated with Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula — although there is no clear evidence old pal Bram was talking about the same person. Vlad succeded and failed in some of his attempts, but in the end, he only wanted one thing: independence for Wallachia.”
End of story, that’s it. Not much, hm? Not very awe-inspiring? Yes, Vlad the Impaler only did what he thought it was right for his country at that time, with medieval, brutal methods. He was a tough leader, value-driven, and above all, visionary. Whether or not he was right, I could care less. But I feel it is my responsibility, as Romanian, to tell the world the story as we know it, no Hollywoodish pink unicorns and scarlet purpure caps.
People don’t want the simple, the ordinary, though. They like to live in the mystery, the fantasy, it gives them a place to escape. Bran’s Castle in Romania is not a somptuous fancy residence — it’s stone-built, strategically up on a mountain and there’s actually little evidence of even an existing connection with Vlad the Impaler. For us, Romanians, simplicity was always something describing our nation— more or less like the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings — peaceful, minding our own business (we never ever started a conquest in order to rule other lands, we only defended our territory), however less dumb and more witty and street-smart. Even our actual, still living King, Michael I, is a very humble and simple person. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in being simple.
Passionate much? Yes, you’d say, and I agree. I’m not a very nationalistic person, much less of a patriot, yet in this specific situation I can’t be happy about a historic truth being disfigured like this. I just can’t take it. But please, do come and visit Romania, Bran’s castle and the other castles we have around — enjoy our simple yet delicious food, our simple people, maybe simple clothes, but our warm hearts and great hospitality.
Question us about the legends, the stories, the mothers of all our problems or achievements, our struggles, our happiness, but just don’t let a Hollywood movie depict a gruesome image of how we actually are and where we come from.
P.S. And if you really want to see a good, close-to-the-original movie about Vlad the Impaler, check this one — it’s Romanian made, in 1979, but it’s awesome and it reflects much better probably everything I just wrote about. If you have troubles finding it… send me a message. ☺