Captain Robert Walton, an explorer obsessed with the manic urge to reach the North Pole at any cost, meets Dr. Victor Frankenstein in the Arctic wilderness, pursuing a mysterious humanoid creature.
Upon learning of the captain’s purpose, Frankenstein tells him his sad and macabre story. Back in his youth, Victor became fascinated with science. And after his mother’s death he was determined to become a scientist and defeat death. His obsession led to terribly tragic consequences for himself and for all his loved ones…
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The plot of Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel is a treasure trove for filmmakers. Almost from the earliest years of cinema to the present day, this terrifying tale of a brilliant scientist obsessed with science and his horrific creation has stirred people’s minds. First of all, the novel caught the attention of readers and remains on the list of bestsellers to this day, and secondly, the theme is still quite relevant, and every year is becoming more and more relevant with the development of medicine and genetic technology, and, thirdly, the artistic image of Frankenstein ‘monster’ really wonderfully prescribed, and to create it actors and directors – one pleasure. Stitched from pieces of different human bodies, possessing inhuman strength and not fully formed mind, hate the world of people, hating them and himself, this character has become the embodiment of human horror before death and its irreversible consequences. So no matter how many years pass, Frankenstein’s monster is just as terrifying. It feels human, it has bits of truth in it, unlike Romero’s non-fearful some just reanimated dead men.
There are more than 20 official adaptations of Frankenstein, but it’s impossible to count how many movies have used Shelley’s ideas and the monster she invented. Frankenstein’s name became a nickname and merged in people’s minds into a single monstrous image with his creation. The most famous adaptations of the Gothic novel are considered to be the cult film from 1931, which is considered to be an unrivaled horror classic, and this film, directed by Kenneth Branagh.
Kenneth Branagh is a ‘dark horse’ in cinema, he is known all over the world as a big fan of theater, Shakespeare, classical literature and an adaptation of this, that and the third. Well, Americans didn’t have much support for Branagh’s love of classic literature. That’s why Branagh doesn’t act in America much, and mostly in independent author projects, where he has gained a certain popularity. But most importantly, he found his admirers among the major Hollywood filmmakers.
Looking at the list of people who worked on ‘Frankenstein’, it’s amazing how much you need to get people involved with your ideas, to have Francis Ford Coppola as a producer, to have Frank Derabont correcting the script, and De Niro playing one of the main roles. However, as I said, what mysteries this novel does not contain, and it has many fans – not only among young people, although in Soviet times it was considered a ‘novel for adolescence ‘.
Branagh, as always, approached the film adaptation of the novel in his own way. He did not make a commercial blockbuster or art house drama, he did something in between – an attempt to put in a fascinating thriller Hamlet passions. He succeeded a lot, although the film has many bloopers, inconsistencies, and just omitted, for the sake of fitting the meter, interesting scenes. As a result, the film turned out very well, but crumpled, disjointed, scattered. Branagh should have focused either on Victor Frankenstein’s genius, his torments, the relationship between science and love, the impossibility of them coexisting, and then it would have been an excellent pseudo-biographical film about how genius can do evil while striving for the good, or just make a spectacular story about a monster and Frankenstein chasing his mistake.
Then the movie would have been coherent and would have been an order of magnitude better. Both did not please Branagh. Americans didn’t accept the film at all, despite their beloved De Niro; in Europe it was a hit, but it never became an artistic revelation or a rebirth of a classic.
The film is best viewed as a gripping sci-fi gothic thriller. The film’s atmosphere is maddeningly heavy-handed and unsettling, a piling-on sense of hopelessness and the bitter realisation that Victor Frankenstein lived on Earth at a bad time. Branagh managed to capture the common features of the era – progressive on the one hand, and savage, dark, cruel, terrible on the other. The maddened crowd, chasing a disfigured subhuman with cries of ‘beat the freak’ itself loses its human face and becomes more monstrous than this artificially created life. Man has succeeded in his fear of everything that does not look like him and his passion for destruction.
Much has been accomplished, but something is still missing. Maybe the reason is Bran himself? Of course, to play in his own film and do as he wished, it was much more pleasant for the actor than to follow the instructions of Woody Allen in ‘Celebrity’, but not many are able to shoot themselves. The novel gave Branagh from the beginning excellent artistic material, but he used it in a rather peculiar way. Frankenstein sliced up the experiments, picked up on the tops of his suffering and mental contradictions, grabbed a piece of love for his fiancÃ©e and family, did not explain much, hurricane rushed to the final film and did not finish everything. So in the genius of the doctor somehow doubted, and after he gave himself completely to science and almost forgot about his fiancee, in his unearthly love for the heroine Helena Bonham Carter at all do not believe. Many questions are asked of him and remain without a hint of an answer. That’s why Frankenstein himself, a rambunctious character, recedes into the background and his evolving, learning monster, played by De Niro, comes to the fore.
De Niro was originally supposed to be the guarantor of the film’s success in America, but he also became just the film’s lead actor. The monster’s place in the film was limited, but stinginess is no obstacle for a true creator. Instead of a monster, the tragedy of the ‘elephant man’ is before us, not as profound as Lynch’s, but incomparably more vivid than in other screen adaptations of Shelley. The ‘Elephant Man’ is a tragedy, not as deep as Lynch’s, but incomparably more vivid than Shelley’s others. Separated from the world, created for ridicule and abuse, and left for dead, terrified and hardened by fear and pain, trapped, desperate, he finds an outlet in the hatred he unleashes, he avenges his life with blood. If Branagh to play the theme of “can a man become God” failed, but with De Niro has a very tangible image, which even have sympathy. True, he did not bring anything substantial to the image of the monster. When I think of him, my first association is still Karloff’s face: the bags under his eyes, the square head, the thoughtless look, the bolts in his neck… Still, the classics are firmly in my head, this film will never reach such heights and never become a cult film.
‘Frankenstein’, oddly enough, is more of an auteur than a commercial film. It is a strong movie, fascinating, interesting, though not devoid of fussiness, desire to jump over the head and other shortcomings. De Niro is good, Branagh isn’t bad, Carter did well in the role, though there wasn’t much eccentricity in the role for her. It doesn’t suit her to play the usual nice young ladies. I didn’t recognize John Cleese even after the second viewing, although his role is not that small. It’s a good movie which won’t live long in the memory of posterity, but among the adaptations of the novel and movies of the 90’s in general it takes its rightful place.
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (74.4 Mb/s)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
English: LPCM 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
English: Dolby Digital 5.1
English: Dolby Digital 2.0