film: Branagh: Frankenstein (1994)

Frankenstein has long held a place in my heart because it deals with the reckless life of a poet, and its destructive tendency,  and thus I see myself in it, and I grow concerned, wondering if such tragedy really is so tragic. Considering Frankenstein at any point after WWI turns Mary Shelley into a prophet of the same caliber of Orwell or Huxley. Removing it from our lives, that is restraining it to her own, we know she wasn’t foretelling anything at all: she was recalling. Percy didn’t know this, of course, which diminishes his intellect, and makes one begin to wonder how great of poet he is as compared to how much effort Mary put into immortalizing him. We know Percy didn’t know this because he gave no indication of knowing it through his revisions, effective rewrites, of the text, which is the 1818 edition, and he allowed it to be published. Byron didn’t seem to pick up on it either. And ultimately, it’s Mary who is the sole voice of that great circle to survive and recollect on the period with a voice of wisdom. Branagh, who makes everything glorious, took some liberties with the story, but can hardly be criticized given the terrible legacy of idiotic interpretations in the cinema and television. What changes he makes do the following: First, Frankenstein isn’t portrayed as making such repeatedly foolish mistakes, which makes him out to be less of a fool. That is, he grows. I wonder if Branagh would have made this change to the story if he himself had not been playing Frankenstein. It reminds one of Hamlet, who he also chose to play, and the similarity between the characters acting idiotic despite their intelligence is notable. Second, he makes it more melodramatic. This goes alongside the first, because had he just given up on making the bride rather than, you know, cut up the bodies of the only two women in the film and sew them together, and then dance with this monster and try to convince her to, we assume, continue the ceremonies of their wedding night…well, then he would have seemed like he was making a mistake, equal to the first, in believing the daemon wouldn’t actually come visit him on his wedding night. The whole story is mishmashed. And then the final sequence, in which Frankenstein is given a chance to live peacefully amongst humans, and refuses in favor of an unabashedly flamboyant act of suicide, is precisely what allows the ending to be hopeful: progress will stop before reaching its absurd conclusions. We know this is not true, because Shelley died, his family life, including all those dead children, attests to his ignorance in life, and Byron, who is portrayed as Frankenstein’s best friend (and who mysteriously disappears in this film. I mean, he just stops showing up.) dies under equally silly circumstances. Branagh: big, bold, excessive, hoorah! My mouth was gaping for much of this, and I covered my eyes a few times.

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