Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)
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Yes, it is melodramatic. Yes, the acting is often over the top. But what many critics of this film fail to recognize is that this is precisly the point. By staying very true to the source material(until the Elizabeth thing) and the significant changes that WERE made are clear evidence of this. The book was melodramatic. What Kenneth Branagh does here is stay true to the spirit of the classic gothic novel. The great close-ups define the characters, and through them you can understand them. Do not mistake stylization for poor film-making, because this is a wonderfully made and presented film, that if understood captivates you from the first spoken words(a quote from Mary Shelly, setting up the stylization) to the last frame.
Know what you're getting into, a passionatly made film about what drives one to both excel and what drives one to madness, and the dangers of excess beyond reason. If you have read the book, regardless of whether you liked it or not,see this movie. You will love what they have retained, and will embrace what they've changed. this is not a film(not a movie, a film) for everyone. But for those who are willing to have an open mind, it is pure bliss!
One MUST see this on widescreen DVD to full appreciate the incredible visuals. But this film is a lot more than eye candy. Supposedly, it was very close to Mary Shelley's book, which is the best compliment you can give it.
I liked the fact that the "monster" could talk and comprehend and, frankly, I liked the revenge factor and fact the monster decided his fate, not hysterical townsfolk as in the original Boris Karloff film (which has a sadder ending.)
This version, in my humble opinion, also had a more appropriate ending: the monster and his creator both dying together.
All the main characters acted the way you would think they would, meaning there was no ridiculousness here, as so often is the case in horror films. In other words, there was great realism put in a story that is a famous far-fetched-type of tale. To be fair, there are some scenes in which you wonder how the monster got where he did (inside homes, etc.) without being seen....so, to say there weren't SOME credibility issues would not be true...but overall, no complaints here.
I'd like to put a quick plug in here for the music, too. Wonderful sweeping classic music complements the astounding visuals. Add an involving story that is tough to put down once you start viewing, and you have one of the most undeservedly-panned movies of our time.
Victor Frankenstein is the son of the wealthy Baron and Caroline Frankenstein. At one point in his childhood Victor's parents adopted Elizabeth, who would become the love of Victor's life. Years later Victor's mother dies giving birth to his brother William. Sometime before going off to the university, a grief-stricken Victor vows on his mother's grave that he will find a way to conquer death. On the night of his graduation Victor and Elizabeth promised to wed when Victor returns from his studies. He finds a friend in Henry Clerval and a mentor. Victor comes to believe that the only way to cheat death is to create life. Victor spends months in his apartment working on creating a living, breathing creature. Using dead body parts from various sources, he begins piecing a creature together. Late one night Victor finally gives his creation life, but he recoils from it in horror and renounces his experiments. But it might be too late for him to take back what he shouldn't have messed with in the first place.
Robert DeNiro did a great job playing The Creature, what a heartbreaking role to take on and he plays it with such amazing sympathy. He says to Victor "Did you ever consider the consequences of your actions? You made me, and you left me to die. Who am I?" and you seriously feel so much for him, he is the true victim. As in the book and not in the original movie, Victor does feel like a God when he is doing his experiments, but when he succeeds, he regrets it immediately. Kenneth did a wonderful job taking on this complicated man who isn't evil by any means but a victim of his own intelligence and wanting to cheat death. The supporting cast is wonderful with Helena Bonham Carter and Tom Hulce. The film can be a little over the top at times playing like a soap opera, but when I read the book, that's how I felt about the story as well. The sets, the costumes and the make are just incredible. Frankenstein is an underrated gem and deserves a better look. It's one of the most intelligent horror stories of all time, Kenneth put a lot of love into this film and I think Mary Shelley would be proud.
I saw this movie for the first time, in the dark solitude of my attic late at night. (I was trying to create a scary atmosphere for maximum effect) To my surprise, though, after it finished, I wasn't very frightened, but very emotionally drained. I had expected Frankenstein to be your classic, everyday, lame horror film which you only watch to get some cheap thrills, and see some horrible overacting. I didn't find it so at all.
This movie was, there is no other word for it, beautifully done - a powerful, dynamic story of how man attempts to achieve greatness, but ends up ruining their lives and the lives of others as a result. I have not read Mary Shelley's book, but if it has half the emotional effect of this movie, I'll consider it time well spent!
What really surprised me though, was that this wasn't a horror film in the traditional sense of the word - it wasn't so that the monster would jump out and the audience would scream. It was more about how the audience would slowly writhe as they realize the tortured motivations of the creature and what he's willing to do as consequence.
Kenneth Branagh brought this movie together wonderfully, with both his directing and powerful, memorable acting as the tormented Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein is somewhat obsessed with death, after losing his mother at an early age, so he attempts to create a new form of artificial life, derived from various body parts of corpses: a life which cannot be so easily extinguished, and is superior to normal human life in every aspect. (except, perhaps, looking normal) However, he soon learns that it's not good to muck around with creating life, when his creation attacks him, and he abandons it. The creature, although initially showing signs of being a sympathetic and caring soul, quickly learns that the ways of man are harsh and judgmental, so he swears revenge on his creator for bringing him into this world of isolation.
The 'creature', was played absolutely masterfully by Robert De Niro. Before Frankenstein, the only movies I had seen with him were Analyze This and Analyze That, and those were comedies, so it was difficult to see his skills as a serious actor, but in playing Frankenstein's creation he created a character that is confused, alone, hostile, manipulative and clever: a very conflicted anti-hero. The scene at the end at Victor Frankenstein's funeral left me in shock by the sheer aura he projects - mixed hatred with compassion and confusion. In my opinion, his best moment is when he meets the ship's captain who asks him 'Who are you?' and the creature nods to his dead creator and responds 'He never gave me a name.' If nobody felt the power in that line, then I don't know what to say to them. I think De Niro deserved an Oscar, or at least a nomination for this role.
The supporting cast is also very good, with Helena Bonham Carter doing a wonderful and chilling job as Frankenstein's wife (another one who I think should have gotten an Oscar nod), and John Cleese (in probably the only downright serious role in his career) being very creepy as Frankenstein's mentor, who realized before that the moral implications of his kind of work cannot be lived with. Ian Holm as Baron Frankenstein was also good, but sadly, his part was underused. It would have been nice to see more of this great actor in this movie alongside all these other great actors. This isn't really a problem for the film as a whole: Holm played a relatively minor character, but I have a lot of respect for his acting skills, and I would have liked to see more of them in this movie.
This is probably one of the most powerful and draining movies I've ever seen in my life; I was so impressed by it that I had to run out and buy the DVD right away. I realize this film has many critics, who claim that it is 'seriously flawed' - I really can't understand what they're talking about. I guess some people are harder to please than others, but I find it almost impossible to find anything wrong with this film. Perhaps it was expected that it would be more your traditional horror film, but it really wasn't a horror movie - it was a character movie. It's true that there were some disgusting parts (I won't go into specifics, but you can probably get the idea), but they seemed to merely add to the mood of the movie, and increase your revulsion that Victor Frankenstein would have thought of creating such a monstrosity. For anyone who needs a good, powerful movie that'll leave you drained and thoughtful, this is THE movie for you!
Victor is a brilliant student and in love with his stepsister Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), an orphan that was raised by his father Baron Frankenstein (Ian Holm). In 1793, Victor moves to Ingolstadt to join the university and he promises to get married to Elizabeth. In the school, Victor befriends Henry Clerval (Tom Hulce) that becomes his best friend. Victor gets close to Professor Waldman (John Cleese) 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 life. He succeeds and gives life to a strong Creature (Robert De Niro), composed of parts of deceased persons. However he realizes that his experiment is a mistake and he abandons The Creature expecting that it could die alone. however The Creature survives and learns how to read and write, but he is a monster rejected by the society and by his own creator. The Creature decides to revenge from Victor killing everyone that he loves.
"Frankenstein" is an underrated version of the classic story. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the dramatic story was not well accepted by the professional critics and by many viewers. I saw this movie in 1995 and I have just saw it again on DVD, and it is a great movie that has not aged. Unfortunately I have never read the novel by Mary Shelley to compare with this version that "is considered the most faithful film adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Frankenstein de Mary Shelley" ("Mary Shelley's Frankenstein")
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.
I loved the Lon Chaney "Frankenstein", and loved this one too! DeNiro was interestingly cast as the monster. Branagh as Dr. Frankenstein was the most engaging of all, being devastated by deaths all around him and wanting to stop death. It's really a story of playing God, but also having the ability and intelligence to do it ---- and to have the intelligence to see it was not the greatest decision ever made. It's just a love story, bottom line. Wouldn't we want to bring someone back from the dead so we can spend more time with them?
Branagh never got the credit he deserved for this movie. He directed a brilliant story that could have gone anywhere - yet he kept it within the story of love. Kudos Mr. Branagh!!
I have seen far too many monster movies that all blur together and share the same focus on effects and gore than story or character. So when this was promoted as being close to the original material, dark and more of a story than a horror I was looking forward to watching it. For the most part it sort of works but it's main flaw runs all the way through it like a stick of rock it's far too worthy. Or at least it thinks it is. The film has a constant swell of dramatic music that is only ever seconds away and it really makes the film feel grander and more serious than it really is. The film isn't scary but that wasn't a problem to me it just has all these big worthy dialogue scenes with sudden pauses (up comes the music) and then lines. It doesn't work and the film feels heavy and even dull as a result.
This is never more evident than in Branagh's own performance. He is far too dashing and too much of a young man gone wrong to be believed. If he'd played it a little less worthy he would have been more of a human and less a cardboard type. De Niro really tries hard and did well for me. He may be stuck with a creature but it has been developed past the cliché (but not far enough perhaps). I did feel for him and it was all De Niro's doing. Carter is miscast both before and after far to light and modern for the role, Briers is OK but Cleese is way to miscast. First of all the fact that he only appears half in shadows and when he opens his mouth the music comes up doesn't help, but it didn't feel like him. Quinn is a good cameo but the majority of the cast seem to have bought into the whole `worthy' thing and are dulled as a result.
Overall the film is worth watching because it is a good telling of the classic tale and De Niro does a good job of showing us the basic human behind the combined dead body parts. If only Branagh hadn't been overwhelmed by the sheer importance of what he thought he was doing and had let the film flow and bit more and given in less to worthy music, acting and directing.
This movie makes me internally conflicted between anger and laughter. The actual novel was butchered. There are countless scenes that are just absolutely fabricated. The movie has consistent scenes which just don't make sense. If you're going to refer to the author in the title, how about actually honoring the poor woman? Make a movie that respects her story, instead of butchering it. Unfortunately, this woman isn't alive to defend herself and disassociate herself from this film.
-Victor's mother died of Scarlet Fever, not during childbirth. -Henry Clerval was a childhood friend; not someone Victor met at Ingolstadt (university). -During the whole novel Victor refuses to tell anybody how he created the creature, while in the novel we have all this detail. -Why the hell was Branaugh putting up a lightening rod in the middle of a field where he and Elizabeth are the tallest objects in the area? How is he able to count down perfectly to when the lightening will strike? Where did that scene come from anyway? -They played up the pseudo incestuous nature of Elizabeth and Victor way too much. -The monster cuts firewood for the cottagers; he doesn't pick fricking radishes for them.
This is only the very beginning of the movie and I haven't included nearly all the stupidity.
If you read the novel, you should be disappointed in this sorry excuse for a film.
It's just such a pity that it cannot make its mind up whether it wants to be a pure emotional drama or a straight-for-the-throat horror story. Robert De Niro lends his character(s) the right degree of emotion and subtlety, and John Cleese surprises the stuffings out of me by showing that yes, he really can act. Helena Bonham Carter gives a good performance that allows the rest of the cast something to work with, but her role is sadly underdeveloped. Unfortunately, all of these foundations are brought crashing down by Kenneth Branagh's overacting. Had the wild bursts of energy and madness been a little spaced out (as is generally the case with the mentally ill), a great deal of believability would have been salvaged. Unfortunately, his performance as Victor Frankenstein turns what could have been a modern masterpiece into a sophomoric stage play with production values, captured on celluoid.
Having said that much, it is wonderful to see that Hollywood has finally dismissed the childish imitation of Frankenstein that has plagued it since the 1930s. No more bolts, no more stupid-looking makeup, and no more idiotic poses. De Niro and Branagh bring the monster to life in such an elegant way that, in the scenes when we see the monster struggle alone, we just cannot help but feel for him. Indeed, the scenes when the monster is chased out of the town by ignoramuses who believe him to be carrying "the plague", one has to wonder who the real monsters of this story are. Speaking as a mental patient who has never to this day been properly treated, my favourite point of this film is the moment where Frankenstein confronts his creation. Hearing the "son" tell the "father" how the latter gave the former these major impulses and bursts of violent strength without teaching the poor creature how to deal with them rings so true for me that I still show this scene to the health professionals I try to educate from time to time.
If I could sum up my comments on this film in a single phrase, it would be that while we have a long way to go in realising the true horror element of this story, Kenneth Branagh's effort stands head and shoulders above the pack. Well worth having a look at, and the photography alone makes it worth owning on DVD.
Unfortunately, Branagh took artistic license with the ending, and flawed his masterpiece. But, the rest of the movie was too good to be completely overlooked because of a bad ending. I love Branagh's portrayal of Professor Frankenstein. He is brilliant, passionate, and sometimes visceral. Handsome, in a scruffy sort of way (I never did buy the squeaky-clean, neat Frankenstein). I have always admired the talent of the classically-trained Branagh.
DeNiro stepped out of his typical mobster character to play a Creature (*not* monster) which is the closest portrayal I have seen to Mary Shelley's creation. I was actually impressed with DeNiro's performance because he was able to disguise himself. When I heard he was cast as the Creature, I half-expected the mobster DeNiro to appear. Luckily, he did not. And, yes, you sympathized with the Creature. He was created, then discarded to survive without guidance. An ugly quilt of a man.
I enjoyed the chemistry between Frankenstein and Elizabeth. Their love is very believable. I'm glad they chose to delve into the development of the relationship from adoptive brother and sister to lovers. This movie (until the end) is darkly and beautifully rich in Mary Shelley's writings.
At one point, I say Branagh even improved upon Shelley's work. The character Justine is wrongfully accused of murder. In the book, to prevent further discord, she is forced to falsely admit her guilt and is hanged. Branagh turned this instead into a lynching by an angry mob in the heat of the moment. A much more acceptable scenario, in my opinion.
But, just as the audience is swept away but the brilliance of the film, after Elizabeth is killed, the movie loses its way. As I watched, I remember mentally screaming, "No! No! You were doing so well! Stay with the book!" I was very disappointed with the conclusion of this work of art. That having been said, this is still an intelligent, very well made movie. You'll appreciate it more if you've read the book.
My rating: 7/10, because it was a fabulous movie sans ending.
Every single shot is done with a swooping camera, melodramatic music and for rushed dialogue. Almost every scene (count them), begins with a character either running or walking very, very fast. For the love of god, sit still, so we can enjoy the movie, guys.
The characters are one-note, and are usually yelling at someone, or are very angry.
If anything, the editor should never receive another assignment. In the end, though, it is the director who is responsible for this mess. And therefore, I will never watch a Kenneth Branagh film again! Please, please, rent the 1958 Hammer Horror version instead, or at the very least, the 1937 Universal film.
This film is mess.
Okay, why is Frankenstein dancing on the mountains with his half-sister and a lightening pole? He was a medical student because of his mothers death, not a random science enthusiast. His mother also died from illness, not childbirth. Frankenstein's friend Henry was from his hometown, not his school. And why did Kenneth Branagh feel the need to slick himself up in goo for the monster-making scene? Also, there was no need for the sex scene, unless it was just to "spice up" the movie, as Frankenstein and Elizabeth never had a chance to consummate their marriage. And what was with the whole trial-gone-awry!?? It was supposed to be an unfair trail, not a mob-gone-mad and throwing the girl off a cliff. Why was the monster going to secret meetings in ice caves?
But the MOST ridiculous part was when Frankenstein tried to regenerate Elizabeth. She's DEAD and should stay that way! Why could he not make the one girl with the perfectly fine body come to life, but magically when he hacks off her head and stick's on his lovers, she sparks to life. And was it necessary to shave half her head in the process? The longer this movie went on, the more i just wanted to laugh. It went so far off base, it shouldn't have even been called Frankenstein, let alone dared to include the author's name as if she'd given personal approval. Unless of course, he knew it was so far removed, people wouldn't recognize and confuse it with Bob Smith's Frankenstein.
What was wrong with this movie? Kenneth Branagh, ham though he may be, was decent enough in this movie. The exact same goes for Robert DeNiro, who got to ham it up a lot while wearing lots of monster makeup. John Cleese was surprisingly good as a medical professor. Helena Bonham Carter is always easy on the eyes. The sets, the costumes, the cinematography, the story, all good.
What really wrecked this movie was its ham-fisted direction. Branagh the Director is infatuated with Branagh the Actor, and seems to work only to highlight to best effect the object of his admiration. This only serves to make Branagh the Actor look particularly hammy and over the top. I could feel my face flush with embarrassment as I watch this disgusting display of narcissism.
Kenny boy, if you're reading this, may I make a suggestion? Next time you want to make another adaptation of a Shakespeare play, or a Gothic novel, please consider handing over the directorial reins to someone else who can approach the overarching talent of Branagh the Actor with a little more, uh.... detachment.
Think about it, won't you? Thank you.
DeNiro did Cape Fear with more makeup, Hulce should have giggled more, and really not tried to do a British accent, Branagh should have spent less time with his shirt off (how many months in the gym prior to principal photography?), and John Cleese (the best of the bunch, IMO) should have insisted on less silly prosthetic teeth. The real problem was the script, or rather, the lack of a script. Lines were puerile, motivation lacking, and everyone's reaction was typical: overact the crap out of it.
In the end, we had to give it the MST3K treatment, mostly referencing Young Frankenstein and Rocky Horror. Thank goodness the DVD version didn't have any special features. I might have been really hard on the film, then.
Mary Shelley's classic Gothic horror novel has been endlessly analyzed and debated over, true to the wish of the late Mary Shelley, who wanted to write a subtle book that made you think, even long after you've finished reading it. Unfortunately, and for obvious reasons, much of the intended subtlety of Mary Shelley's (as well as that of all authors') work was lost in the transition to the stage and the silver screen. The worst of this, thought, is that many of these movies, perhaps for the sake of audiences not familiar with the original text and who did not (do not) like complicated protagonists, try very hard to get the audience on Victor's side. They try to prove that he is, in his heart of hearts, an honorable man who made a mistake, and is now constantly paying for it at the merciless hands of his creation; failing, in the process, to remind the audience that, whatever "The Monster" is, Victor made him. As the creature of this adaptation says to Victor on "the sea of ice" in the mountains of Geneva, "You gave me these movements, but you did not tell me how to use them. Now, two people are dead, because of us." The overall effect of the movie was, thinking back on it, very bloody. The death of Victor's wife on her wedding night was gruesomely changed to suit the tone of the rest of the movie.
The blood in the remainder of the movie deviates unnecessarily from the book, (the creature rips out Elizabeth's heart on her wedding night with Victor, and when Victor tries to reanimate her with Justine's body, the creature appears. They battle for her, and she takes her own life, burning the house to the ground) and it looks very, very fake. The visuals, in this way, are reminiscent of Bram Stoker's Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, producer of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Dracula, which came out in 1992, also involved large and unnecessary explosions of blood. Kenneth Branagh, along with his co-stars, deserves credit for his efforts, but this adaptation of Frankenstein ultimately leaves a bad taste in the mouth that is not the terror provided by a good thriller, but the disgust provided by a bad one. A disgust that is heightened by the fact that the title bears its author's name.