“Do you believe in destiny? That even the powers of time can be altered for a single purpose? That the luckiest man who walks on this earth is the one who finds… true love?”
Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) is peak cinematic romantic-horror for many of us, replete with thematic concerns that resonate deeply: fate and destiny intertwined across the vastness of time and space, reincarnation, and eternal love. Dracula’s immortality is a curse, as he must face the unending march of time without his one true love, Elisabeta. That is, until he discovers what he believes to be her reincarnated self, in the form of Mina Murray. More than four centuries after Vlad Dracula’s love committed suicide after believing he died in battle with the Turks, he seeks her out in London. “I have crossed oceans of time to find you,” he declares, in what has to be one of the most romantic expressions of undying love I’ve ever heard.
Fate is predetermined by the cosmos, while destiny involves some level of choice on our parts, which can lead us towards something truly special. Fate is often seen pessmisitically, while destiny is largely connotated more positively in our minds. Dracula was fated to live eternally without the love of his life, until destiny intervened.
A bleeding heart romantic always believes that love stories need never be confined to only this mortal coil, but instead live on across time and space, for all eternity. We will find the loves we’re meant to find in each life, each alternate reality, all corners of the cosmos, because the stars have written it so. When we recognize destiny calling in each lifetime that we live through, we can become active agents in fulfilling that destiny. At least, that’s what some of us believe is possible. And that’s really it, in the end: just believing in the possibility that there is something bigger than this life, that when we forge special connections now we can and will find them and reconnect again in the next level of existence, whatever and wherever that may be.
Coppola’s telling of Stoker’s classic is full of lush gothic horror, but at its center lies a love story, one of great intensity and urgency. This exchange is particularly representative of the film’s romantic qualities. Note also how it foreshadows an ending that never comes to pass.
Mina: I want to be what you are, see what you see, love what you love.
Dracula: Mina, to walk with me you must die to your breathing life and be reborn to mine.
Mina: You are my love… and my life, always.
Dracula: Then, I give you life eternal. Everlasting love. The power of the storm. And the beasts of the earth. Walk with me to be my loving wife, forever.
In the end, Mina does not transform into a vampire like her lover. Instead, as Dracula lies dying in a chapel he begs her to end it for him, which she does out of mercy and love. That’s when Mina’s and our eyes gaze up at the fresca of Vlad and Elisabeta finally reuinted, ascending to heaven. The curse of vampirism didn’t bond them for eternity—destiny did, proving that even in a mythic tale of the bloodsucking undead it’s the larger, more cosmically aware concepts which provide the film with an epic romantic grandeur. It’s a love story spanning oceas of time, and even the undead can find true romance in that.