Frankenstein (1994)

Film review: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), directed by Kenneth Branagh

frankenstein1994Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) is the son of a Swiss doctor and baron (Ian Holm), and wants to be a doctor too. When his mother (Cherie Lunghi) dies, his obsession with preventing death gets a little out of hand, so to speak.

Victor goes to Ingolstadt to study, quickly becoming unpopular with classmates and one of the professors for having views that people like Paracelsus and Agrippa might have been onto something. Professor Waldman (John Cleese with fake teeth) had made some experiments previously, but abandoned them when he got “too close” to resurrecting a corpse. Despite the warnings of his friend (Tom Hulce), Victor wants to try it himself. After all, defeating death would be the most important scientific discovery of all time!

However, putting together a corpse from lots of different criminals and then giving it life is perhaps not the best idea in the world. The result (Robert De Niro) certainly isn’t very happy about it …

Also starring Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth, Celia Imrie as Mrs Moritz, Aidan Quinn as Captain Robert Walton up in the Arctic, and Richard Briers as the blind grandfather.

The closest thing I’ve ever been to the “real” Frankenstein story is Young Frankenstein, which of course isn’t the real thing at all. The turn of events in this adaptation were therefore actually news to me. I knew nothing about Frankenstein travelling to the Arctic, or that the love of his life was his adopted sister, or that he was the son of a baron. Nice to finally have seen this, as I’m guessing it’s not too far off the original novel. Branagh tends to do things properly, or at least that’s my impression of him as a director.

The cast were all very good, but then if you have Ken Branagh himself along with Helena Bonham Carter and Robert De Niro, you can’t exactly start booing. John Cleese I only recognised when he spoke, because he looked very different in the long hair and with those fake teeth, but that voice is unmistakable.

I do still want to read the original novel, and we also have another adaptation still waiting to be viewed (the 2004 miniseries), but in the meantime, I’m glad to have seen this version, and finally find out what the story is about properly. As a film, it’s a good, if slightly murderous and violent, period drama, well-acted, posing interesting questions about the morality in trying to prevent death at any cost. I just wish I knew why he had to cut up corpses in the way that he did. I mean, the face wasn’t exactly mutilated, so why did he have to go and cut it up like that only to put it back together again?

4 out of 5 stitches.

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