#187 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Obsessed with the creation of life after the death of his mother, Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) embarks on research which ultimately reanimates a mishmash of body parts into a living being (Robert DeNiro). Instantly horrified with what he has done, Frankenstein rejects his creation and flees back to his home in Geneva. This creation however, will not let him go that easily.
Branagh helm’s this 90’s film adaptation of Frankenstein in much the same way he did Henry V as both lead actor and director. Having never read the original book, I cannot attested to how closely it follows the source material but I have read that this is probably the closest of any version filmed.
Branagh’s performance works on various different levels. You completely buy him as the demented scientist but so too do you accept him as the young man head over heels in love with his fiance (Helena Bonham Carter) and just angry at God for taking his mother from him. He hits all the right nails on the head and provides as good a Frankenstein, if not better, than Colin Clive in the original movie.
The scenes in which he brings his creations to life are also wonderfully shot and extremely well made. They’re frantic, full of things being switched on and off and throughout the whole thing Branagh is never still for a minute. It’s almost as if he’s willing his energy into his creations, urging them back to life. If your a fan of scientific gizmo scenes then this film is definitely for you.
From the rest of the cast, DeNiro works rather well as the monster, dancing the line between murderous monster and sympathetic being rather well. Carter gives one of the better performances I’ve seen from her and, despite the gothic background of the story, actually plays the role rather normally. It was much the same as seeing her in the King’s Speech. You just sort of forget that when she’s not all kooky and Tim Burton-fied she’s actually a really good actress.
Tom Hulce is also present as Frankestein’s collage buddy (essentially) and it’s just nice to see him in a film. He was a really good actor that seemed to be going somewhere and then just sort of dropped of the scene entirely. Finally, John Cleese has a small role as one of Frankestein’s professors who is hinted to have performed similar experiments before Frankenstein. I honestly had to look up IMDB to check it was him because he gave such a good dramatic performance. Cleese has always been good as a comedic actor but I wasn’t aware he could also pull off just straight drama.
In the end it was a little long, a little silly in places, it added a couple of elements which were unneeded and did something with Carter’s character which I just couldn’t wrap my head around but it was ultimately a good interpretation of Shelley’s novel. It’s miles better than Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola, which came out 2 years beforehand, and I personally enjoyed it more than the original movie as well. 4/5