Category: Frankenstein and Film (4/9)


Dumbing it Down

In her essay, Zakharieva observes that in Whale’s adaptation of the book, the Creature is portrayed as a savage, crude being with no real sophistication. She notes that the relationship between Creator and Creature takes on a cultural tone of Coloniser and Slave. Frankenstein is almost able to tame the Creature with food and drink much like a beast. Was this portrayal intentional giving the huge discrepancy in the book? If so, then why did Whale feel it appropriate to portray the Creature in such a way?

Zakharieva in her essay mentions the female creature and the “decision” she has to make between Victor and the Creature. She states, “The bride is not a completely new being, she is a re-creation of the two women to whom Frankenstein is bound through his sense of guilt. The Female Creature is torn between her lover and his evil counterpart – the Monster” (Zakharieva). What is the significance of the bride’s indecision? What does her self destruction mean in terms of the battle between Victor and the Creature?

Zakharieva starts his essay with a really interesting point about how Branagh’s film advertises itself as a production of the original novel, as being a “resurrection of the authentic Frankenstein”(416) and how in trying to mimic “the original artistic codes of the Romantics”, it actually parallels Victor’s attempt to mimic the “codes and mechanisms of Nature” to make the Creature. I could definitely see this attempt to stick to the novel’s storyline and it mostly does, with a few deviances, until we get to the end where it COMPLETELY and with no warning, swerves off track with the making of the female monster. Zakharieva discusses this scene but he doesn’t comment on how out of the blue it is, considering how relatively closely the movie was following the actual narrative. Why does Zakharieva talk of the attempted authenticity of the film but ignore the fact that it later consciously gives up being authentic? Was this deviation for theatricality, or for showing how one cannot truly copy something and that the result will always be an imperfect abomination, or did Helena Bonham Carter just want to try out a new look?

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Frankenstein 1994

Let’s talk a bit more about the creation’s birth scene. Bouriana Zakharieva, in “Frankenstein of the Nineties: The Composite Body,” writes that in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), “[c]reator and creation embrace in an ambivalent scene of struggle and affection; their hug is an expression of a desire to separate from each other and at the same time to help each other stand erect” (422). The claim is that this moment symbolically represents “human evolution” (422) and their eventual “love-hate relationship” (423).

But for me, I think this was downright one of the most comedic scenes of the film. Victor fails at least six times to get his creation to stand in that slimy mess, and the camera makes no effort to disguise the pitifulness of it all. I didn’t see much animosity so much as a little creator so desperately wanting his creation to stand.

I have way too many questions, but oh well:

Why did Branagh introduce this “standing-up scene,” which Mary Shelley never put in her novel? Does its comedy (if you agree that it’s funny) serve some purpose? How does it, as Zakharieva claims, represent “human evolution”? Finally, why is it only after the creation’s actually chained up that Victor questions, “What have I done?”

The Ending

One major difference between the book and the movie that wasn’t discussed much in the essay was the ending. The book ends with the creature disappearing into “darkness and distance,” while the movie shows the creature lighting Victor’s funeral pile and burning along with him. Is this an attempt to redeem the creature? By burning alongside Victor, the creature could be trying to atone for his killings and trying to prevent any more from happening by destroying himself. In doing this, does the creature upset the dichotomy of “Nature/Woman/Good versus Science/Man/Evil”? What does the more concrete finality of the movie suggest?

What about the sex?

I thought it was unusual that in discussing the “hypercorporality” of Branagh’s film adaptation, Zakharieva did not discuss the film’s portrayal of sexuality, particularly in the relationship between Victor and Elizabeth. I thought it was significant that Branagh deviated from Shelley’s text in choosing to portray the physical aspects of their relationship (ie. to the point that the marriage was consummated before the monster kills Elizabeth). I wonder whether the attention to a very sexual corporality (Branagh even makes Elizabeth’s death more sexual by having the monster rip out her heart, leaving her covered in blood) is reflective of the moral looseness of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Or is Branagh really heightening the sexual crises of the novel (ie. the monster’s sexuality is ambiguous or nonexistent)?

No blog post will be due this Thursday (4/9).  Instead, students will post short questions on Bouriana Zakarieva’s essay, “Frankenstein in the Nineties: The Composite Body” (416-431). The question should focus on anything that you find perplexing, interesting, confusing, or unusual about this essay.  This small assignment will count only as part of your participation grade.  Students should read each other’s questions before class and come prepared with answers.

Students will be answering each others’ questions in class, so please bring your laptop to do some in-class blogging this Thursday.

Please categorize under “Frankenstein and Film” and, if possible, create some relevant tags.