Saturday, April 16, 2016

'Dracula Untold' (2014) - movie review; and the Romanians who saved Europe

'Dracula Untold'

Dracula Untold is a 2014 American dark fantasy action horror film directed by Gary Shore in his feature film debut and written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless.[4] Rather than focus on Irish novelist Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, the film creates an origin story for its title character, Count Dracula, by re-imagining the story of Vlad the Impaler. Luke Evans portrays the title character, and Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, and Charles Dance appear in supporting roles.

Principal photography began on August 5, 2013, in Northern Ireland. Universal Pictures released the film on October 10, 2014, in cinemas and IMAX. The film is the first installment of the rebooted Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe,[5] followed by The Mummy in 2017.

Despite mixed critical reviews, with praise towards Luke Evans's performance and the story, and criticism directed at the characterization, Dracula Untold was a box office success grossing $217 million worldwide.

A few days ago I rewatched 'Dracula Untold', this time with the idea of examining the local Romanian legend and folklore... or even the European legend and folklore aspect of it. This can at times conflate with old pagan mythology. The overall Dracula legend is a fantasy based on combining the real historical character of "Vlad the Impaler" with old vampire folklore. I thought it was an interesting dark twist for a fantasy tale. My earlier pondering of some older native pagan tradition somehow rising to stop the Ottoman Muslim expansion had no basis in the movie or in actual history. However, it seems odd to me that Vlad Dracul was a member of an apparently Christian and "monarchical chivalric order for selected nobility" called the Order of the Dragon.

Serpentine symbolism is very seldom a part of Christianity. Serpent, dragon, or snake symbolism represents "knowledge," and is often conflated with the snake in the Garden of Eden. As to whether or not this order was a Freemasonic or Alchemical secret society, it seems possible. The Order of the Dragon used both Christian and serpentine symbolism. The society was present in Europe, especially Germany and Italy. One curious symbol is the red amulet worn by Vlad Dracul. Once I saw a plastic red Dracula amulet necklace on sale for Halloween. Illustrations of the real Vlad Dracul show him either wearing this red amulet as a necklace or as part of his royal headdress. Adding to the legend is that his name "Dracul" (House of Draculesti) sounds a little like "Draco".. such as a dragon; although I'll take that as mere coincidence.

Although extremely brutal, in many ways we must view him as a hero. He literally stopped the Ottoman Empire by becoming even more brutal than they were. The Dracula legend of popular culture, as well as his own extreme actions, have probably prevented him from attaining the status of a true hero... such as a William Wallace. He is a folk hero today in both Romania and Bulgaria. As the old saying goes "he did what had to be done." The Romanians saved Europe. Vlad Dracul was a Charles Martel on perhaps an even grander scale. The Romanians were facing a much larger and more dangerous enemy in the Ottomans. The Battle of Calugareni took place well over a century later.

Battle of Calugareni

The Battle of Calugareni was one of the most important battles in the history of early modern Romania. It took place on 23 August (13 August on old style calendar) 1595 between the Wallachian army led by Michael the Brave and the Ottoman army led by Sinan Pasha. It was part of the Long War, fought between Christian and Ottoman forces at the end of the 16th - beginning of the 17th centuries.

The whole Ottoman forces were estimated at about 100,000 men, but not all of their troops were on the battlefield at Calugareni. It seems that about 30,000-40,000 Ottoman soldiers were involved in the battle.

Michael the Brave had in total about 16,000 men and 12 large field cannon, with Transylvanian (Székely) detachments.[5] Being heavily outnumbered, Michael the Brave strategically positioned his forces near a swampy field (near Neajlov River) that would negate the Ottoman's military superiority. South of the village of Călugăreni, where the Câlniştea river flows into Neajlov river, the terrain is a muddy marsh, surrounded by forests. A narrow bridge over the Neajlov river was a mandatory pass point. The battle had three different phases.

Islam vs Christianity - 23 August 1595 Battle of Calugareni ( Part 1)


IULIAN ROMANIA ^^^ Battle of Călugăreni was one of the most important battles in the history of early modern Romania. It took place on 23 August 1595 between the Wallachian army led by Michael the Brave and the Ottoman army led by Sinan Pasha.The whole Ottoman force was estimated to have between 70,000 and 100,000 troops.Michael the Brave had in total about 16,000 men and 12 large field cannons.Mihai continued his attacks deep within the Ottoman Empire, taking the forts of Nicopolis, Ribnic, and Chilia and even reaching as far as Adrianople. At one point his forces were only 24 kilometers from Constantinople. The Order of Michael the Brave, Romania's highest military decoration, was named after Michael !!!

Islam vs Christianity - 23 August 1595 Battle of Calugareni ( Part 2)

Vlad Dracul

'Dracula Untold' (2014) - movie review

The movie begins in Transylvania in 1442. The landscape was shown as dark, foreboding, and beautiful. Romania is indeed beautiful, as like an Oregon within Europe. Vlad Dracul was portrayed as the benevolent Prince of Wallachia, a forerunner of modern Romania. By his side, his wife Mirena; a strong noble character who finally dies in the soon-to-be struggle. He was entitled "Son of the Dragon," although I don't know if that is what Dracul really means; and as the "Prince of Transylvania." He grew up under Ottoman oppression, and had served as a forced conscription for the Ottomans; who had a practice of forcing regional rulers to give them young boys to train and use as cannon fodder for their own wars of expansion. I don't know how historically accurate this movie is, but I'll just go with it. He was something of a legendary warrior in his own service as a boy/young man, and had a long relationship with the Ottoman representatives who would soon invade his countryside again, particularly Sultan Mehmed whom he fought with as a conscription. They all grew up together in a sense, and now they were men.

The theme of the movie can be reflected by an interesting quote from Vlad Dracul in the movie: "Sometimes the world no longer needs a hero. Sometimes what it needs is a monster." It shows his transformation from a benevolent prince, to "Vlad the Impaler." The concept that an enemy can be so vicious that you must become like them in order to survive and defeat them. I think that's probably true. After the Ottomans returned, they demanded in no uncertain terms that the Prince hand over to them one thousand boys--including his own son--for military service to the Sultan.

Spoiler alert beyond this point!



While at first the Prince reluctantly went along with the Sultans demands, he changed his mind just as he was handing his son over to a small group of Ottomans whom he slayed all by himself. The war was on. This was similar to the dramatic scene in 'Braveheart' when the Scots finally let loose on an oppressive English Lord and a small group of his armed guard. The image of a boy finally standing up the class bully; a concept as old as mankind. I suppose you could say that any "bully" would be best served if they merely struck "fear" upon their victim, but not to the point of "desperation."

The Prince then enters a cave in the mountains where a cursed undead man, a vampire, dwells. This vampire cannot leave the cave until he can turn another man into a vampire. I don't recall all of the terms of this curse, but that's the basic gist of it. Vlad agrees to allow this vampire to kill him. He goes through a period where he is dead in the cave, then rises from the dead and leaves the cave... a clear allegorical "Jesus." However, you could also say that he allegorically "struck a deal with the Devil" as well. There is also a strong allegorical concept, shown in many movies, of an oppressed people "rising from under the ground" to face their enemy.

The deal was that he would remain "undead" with all of these dark powers for a period of three days, just as Jesus died for three days before coming back to life, and if he could avoid drinking human blood then he would return to being a moral again. If not, then he would remain undead, and the vampire from the cave would have to remain condemned to the cave. With these new powers, he could now turn into a pack of bats and fly and attack as a pack. He became almost indestructible, but could only go out when the sun went down. I took this all as to mean that the Wallachians, represented by the prince, regaining their ancient courage. This would actually be the reverse of the Christian concepts of "loving your enemies" or "turning the other cheek." There's also something of an Alchemical tie-in to all of this... "the dark arts" which were not necessarily evil, but can be used for good or evil. The symbolism of "bats" I took to mean as the resistors becoming "creatures of the night"... of which bats well represent.

There was a reference, I think perhaps by the Sultan, of "100,000" Turks will march on Europe"... apparently in reference to an unfolding plan. After the Sultan sees a large number of Ottoman troops impaled on poles, one of the wounded soldiers presented him with a message from the Prince: "Vlad Dracul hopes that you enjoy the view." There's nothing quite like some malevolent person or force getting a real taste of their own medicine. When the full Ottoman army finally does march upon Romania, the Sultan has them wear blindfolds so they cannot see all the impaled Turks on sticks. Apparently this sight really did instill fear upon the Ottomans at that time, but I'm not sure if they actually wore blindfolds.

After creating some new vampires from people who were dying anyway, the Prince and the Walllachians went on to defeat the Ottoman army. This allegory of "vampires" I think represented, as like with the "werefolf" legend, people who transform themselves in spirit into wild animals... often in order to face an enemy. The Vlad Dracul of the movie, as well as the other vampires, finally allows himself to die in the sunlight... becoming a martyr. It sort've reminds me of the old saying "it's not always the popular guy who gets the job done."


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