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Cut Scenes is Josh Wise’s regular column on the intersection between films and video games. This week, it’s Bloodborne vs. Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Confined to an unending, repeating dream, your humanity on the wane, a pale question hangs over your nights like a moist moon: just what is it that you’re after? It’s a question Francis Ford Coppola posed for his 1992 film, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and it’s one at the heart of Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Bloodborne. The answer, as Coppola had it, was love; for Miyazaki, it was knowledge.

Dracula opens with a pact:


As voivode of Transylvania, and a member of the sacred order of the dragon, Dracula’s standing and nobility was forged on the battlefield. His transfiguration into the darkness came about through the drinking of unholy blood. His thirst was, in the end, his downfall. Provost Willem’s cautionary adage from Bloodborne rings true: “We are born of the blood, made men by the blood, undone by the blood; fear the old blood.”

That armour he wears into battle, sinewy and red like exposed muscle fibre, is a product of Coppola’s feverish production design. He reportedly told his costume designers, “Give me something that either comes from the research or that comes from your own nightmares.” It recalls a moment in the book Dark Souls: Design Works where Miyazaki criticised Masanori Waragai, an art designer, for leaning on the grotesque, asking, “Can’t you instead try to convey the deep sorrow of a magnificent beast doomed to a slow and possibly endless descent into ruin?”

For Miyazaki’s own take on the idea of the vampire, this decent is cast in ice and burnished to a ghastly shimmer. The Cainhurst Vilebloods were a once noble clan. Shunning the edicts of the Healing Church, they hunt for blood to pass up to their monarch, Queen Annalise. Cainhurst castle bears a marked similarity to Castle Dracula, and the driverless carriage that whisks you there is reminiscent of Harker’s passage through the Borgo pass. Moreover, the Cainhurst Armour set, with its scale-like plates and smooth, sloping helmet, recalls Dracula’s organic-looking red armour.

Bloodborne’s tale is one of obsession, of the thirsting for knowledge. Its fiendish cleverness lives in the idea that, as a player, you try and uncover this world’s secrets – you try to piece together the events that led up to now. It puts your quest in line with Provost Willem’s, with the quest of Byrgenwerth and the Healing Church. What lead Yarnham to ruin, and what drives you to disinter its secrets is the same force: curiosity.

It, too, begins with a pact, and the partaking of blood:

Blood ministration, the transfusion of the blood of the Great Ones with our own, was the keystone for Willem’s hunger for knowledge. This yearning to breach the walls of our world and our truth, to unravel the cosmic arcana of an infuriatingly indifferent universe, lead to corruption: a deep bodily and psychological taint, known as the plague of beasts. It saw Yarnham’s citizens bent and broken, transformed – huge wolves, man-sized rats with luminous eyes, or the chiropteran “Blood-Starved Beast.”

It speaks to a corruption formed in a malevolent pact, one of moral and psychological transformation, but also one of bestial physical nature. The beasts in Bloodborne recall the protean forms Dracula takes throughout Coppola’s vision, the wolf:

The bat:

And the rats:

In renouncing Christ and striking a deal with the devil, Dracula treads a similar path to the player who begins Bloodborne: both transcend physical reality and become immortal. The curious torture of Dracula’s existence is his yearning for love. Throughout the film, reoccurring faces haunt his days – the priest who witnesses his renunciation looks identical to Van Helsing; Mina Harker seems a reincarnation of his dead wife Elizabeta. It is as if he lives in a recurring waking dream.

Despite the many lifetimes Dracula has lived, and despite the many deaths Bloodborne’s lone hunter suffers, both are doomed to return their endless days. One driven by the heart, one driven by the head, both are damned, sowing the seeds of their own downfall, born back ceaselessly into the dream.

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