24 August 2015

MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN (1994)

MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN

Alternate Title:
Frankensten

USA / Japan, 1994
Director: Kenneth Branagh

9/10








Of all the "Frankenstein" films that have been made over the last 105 years,
be it the ones by Universal with Boris Karloff (1930s), the Universal monster mash-ups (1940s), the ones by Hammer with Peter Cushing and/or Christopher Lee (1950s-1970s) or all the other hundreds of variations (whether I've seen them or not)... THIS has always been my favorite one, and I'm pretty damn sure that it always will be my #1 "Frankenstein" movie.


The reason for this is simple: I never cared much for the other ones (no, not even the trilogy with Boris Karloff which is good, but not that good IMO), mainly because... well, before I've ever seen any "Frankenstein" film, I've read Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's uber-glorious "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus" (undoubtedly one of the greatest books ever written) at the age of 10, and I also had the pleasure of enjoying the stunningly grim graphic novel by Martin Powell and Patrick Olliffe (at the age of 11 or 12).

To my displeasure, most feature film adaptations differ way, WAY too much from Shelley's book, plus: there's hardly any film version that manages to adapt the gloomy, sinister atmosphere that Shelley created... except for this one! Although it takes a few radical liberties, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" is undoubtedly the most faithful adaptation, in terms of plot/storyline AND atmosphere/mood. This is not about the wonders of creating new artificial life, or the good scientist versus the evil monster - this movie is, just like the book, about two humans, both good and evil at the same time. This is about Victor Frankenstein creating an artificial man
(I refuse to call it a monster), not taking responsibility for it, which leads to the nameless artificial man taking revenge on Frankenstein, killing his entire family. Fair enough ;)


Originally, the movie was supposed to be directed by its producer Francis Ford Coppola, but thank goodness, he stepped back to let Kenneth Branagh direct, which was probably one of the greatest decisions Copppola ever did. I'm 100% sure he would have botched this movie even harder than his uber-silly 1992 Dracula-adaptation - while Branagh, an expert on, and aficionado of classic English literature, as well as a super-talented filmmaker, was the absolute perfect choice for a faithful and believable "Frankenstein" adaptation. He gave the basic storyline an added layer of powerful emotionality, and a strong dose of drama and humanity, ultimately creating a breathtaking movie that is able to scare and shock you, as well as to pull at your heartstrings and bring you to tears.

Branagh also managed to make it an visual treat for the eyes with ravishing settings and breathtaking sceneries/filming locations. When the movie is bright, it's really damn bright, and when it's dark, holy shit, that it's really frightening dark! More kudos to the amazing cinematography by the great Roger Pratt ("Brazil", "Twelve Monkeys"), the stunning soundtrack by regular Branagh-collaborator Patrick Doyle ("Henry V", "Much Ado About Nothing") and the terrific screenplay by Stephen-King-expert Frank Darabont ("The Green Mile, "The Mist") and some other guy called Steph Lady (who?).


The best thing about "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" is the cast: holy shit, who would have ever thought that Robert De Niro could be the best Frankenstein-creature ever? Not me! Back in the 90s, when I first heard that the 'human Chameleon' took on the role of the one that 'is alive!', I was more than skeptical - but then I saw him and once again, the (probably) greatest actor of all time, blew me away with another top-notch near-perfection performance, and one of hist most impressive performances of the 90s, which is IMO the most interesting
De-Niro-decade. He nails his role with an intensity and strenght that is simply overwhelming.

Seeing him running into the woods, crying, after he's been hit on the head with a wood plank... seeing him jump-attacking Victor Frankenstein somewhere in the Swiss Alps... seeing him ripping out the heart of Victor's wife and accidentally setting her head on fire while saying "I keep my promises."...
marvellous, just marvellous!
Other fantastic lines: "He was my father." / "I am done with man." / "I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe." / "Did you ever consider the consequences of your actions? You made me, and you left me to die. Who am I?" - "You? I don't know." - "And you think that I am evil."
 

Branagh himself is superb as Victor Frankenstein and shares great chemistry with the wonderful-as-always Helena Bonham Carter (with whom he began an affair during filming which led to a divorce of his then-wife Emma Thompson). Also great: Tom Hulce in one of his very last performances before he retired from acting, Ian "Bilbo" Holm as Frankenstein's father, Aidan Quinn who delivers a pitch-perfect portrayal of the rarely-portrayed Captain Robert Walton (according to Imdb, there have been only 5 Waltons in movie history so far...) and a bafflingly incredible John Cleese (yes, the Monty Python John Cleese!) in one of his very few serious roles as the rarely-portrayed Professor Waldman (according to Imdb, there have been also only 5 Waldmans in movie history so far...)

Not everyone will agree with me, which is totally and utterly understandable, but... I can't help it. I love this movie so, so, so much!!


Wiki ~ Imdb

2 comments:

  1. I saw it in the theater and liked it. But yes, you guessed it - I'm a Karloff fiend. Your reasons for not caring as much for any of the other movies because you read the book first makes total sense though. Those other movies are not good adaptations - but I do love them for their other virtues.Have you seen the TV movie Frankenstein-The True Story from the 1970's? It makes a real attempt at the book too - though it's been a lot of years since I've seen it and my memory might be a little faulty...

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    1. Yes, I have seen that one. It's one of the very, very few adaptations that are really close to the book. It's not as awesome as Branagh's version, but it's watchable. I haven't seen in it in years, time for a rewatch, I guess.

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