In 1794, in the Arctic Sea, Captain Robert Walton is a man obsessed to reach the North Pole, pushing his crew to exhaustion. When his ship hits an iceberg, it is stranded in the ice. Out of the blue, Captain Walton and his men overhear a dreadful cry and they see a stranger coming to the ship. He introduces himself and Victor Frankenstein and he tells to the captain the story of his life since he was a little boy in Geneva. Victor is a brilliant student and in love with his stepsister Elizabeth, an orphan that was raised by his father Baron Frankenstein. In 1793, Victor moves to Ingolstadt to study at the university and he promises to get married to Elizabeth. At the university, Victor befriends Henry Clerval who becomes his best friend. Victor gets close to Professor Waldman and decides to create life to cheat death, but Waldman advises him that he should not try this experiment since the result would be an abomination. When Waldman dies, Victor steals his notes and tries to create ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When Cinemafantastique interviewed Kenneth Branagh on his recently-released version of Frankenstein, the writer asked Branagh to describe his viewpoint, his thematic slant on the story. Quite a natural question for a film maker to be asked, as the notions of theme and point of view are not optional, they are mandatory. A director must decide beforehand on the ideas he wishes to set forth, and craft the means to set them forth clearly. When dealing with a classic, oft-filmed work, he must choose a new slant, and exploit themes that have not been emphasized before (at least, in quite that way), if his work is to be at all original.
Branagh's breezy response was something on the order of, "I didn't really have a theme in mind, I just wanted to tell a good story."
This is precisely why Branagh's version fails: is an unanchored, misguided mess. Herewith is a barely coherent hash of styles, a series of boneheaded choices (a snotty Helena B. Carter as the "liberated" Elizabeth Frankenstein), a tangle of hanging threads -- beautiful clothes with no one in them; beautiful sets that form a backdrop to utter nonsense.
And it is dreadfully miscast. Branagh's ego trip as Dr. Frankenstein aside, the worst performance of all is that of Robert DiNiro as his creature. In this role, DiNiro proves that Pauline Kael was right all along. For years, Ms. Kael kept telling us that this mediocre talent was considered a great actor just because everyone said he was. In other words, he had been in the right place at the right time, and had stumbled into his undeserved reputation by pure chance. (Check out the way he sleeps through his role in Casino.) The spectacle of Frankenstein's creature mumbling in that repellent, thick New Yorkese is really one of the sorriest moments in all of filmdom -- there is simply no excuse for such a thing. Did anyone bother to tell him the story is set in Switzerland? I saw this movie in New York, at an East Side theater, and the audience was giggling nervously every time DiNiro opened his mouth. Why nervously? Because they "know" DiNiro is a "great" actor... Because they were embarrassed, pure and simple.
And they should have been. Branagh's desire to "tell a good story," while arrogantly disregarding the most basic elements of storytelling, quite naturally produced the opposite effect. In short, it produced an embarrassment.
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