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November 1994, Week 5


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Shawn Levy <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 30 Nov 1994 10:20:25 CST
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
On Tue, 29 Nov 1994 [log in to unmask] wrote:
> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> Just a note on the you should not have to read the book to
> understand it, but perhaps becoming familiar with the book will help you
> understand why Branagh's work differs so much from the classic "horror"
> version of _Frankenstein_.  I, myself, prefer the monster as an intelligent
> being.  In Shelley's book, he _is_ the tragic figure.  I think that
> Branagh was aiming for that in his film.  If you compare this film to the
> book, very little was changed.
Actually, quite a bit of extraneous material was added, making the
inclusion of Shelley's name in the title rather an insult.  For starters,
Shelley has Frankenstein deliberately fail to reveal his methodology in
creating the monster:  he tells the ship's captain that he doesn't want
anyone to follow him in his error.  Yet Brannagh makes the creation the
emotional and cinematic highlight of the film.  Similarly, when the
mosnter in Shelley demands a mate, Frankenstein cannot go through with
the creation of another creature.  Yet Brannagh not only creates a second
monster but posits her in the middle of a ludicrous love triangle.  (One
comes to expect such awkward inclusions from Branagh, who made a "Henry
V" that had as its emotional core a battle scene that Shakespeare
couldn't have scripted and that not only included material from the "Henry
IV" plays and actually rewrote some of it -- Falstaff is nowhere to be found
in Shakespeare's "Henry V", but he is seen in flashback in Branagh's,
and, worse, reciting a line to Prince Hal ("We have heard the chimes at
midnight") that he spoke in a completely different attitude and context to
Shallow in "Henry IV, II".  And Branagh is supposed to be
reinvigorating our cultural respect for Shakespeare?)
Lastly and most vexingly in his latest film, though, Branagh actually signed
off on and directed a scene in which Tom Hulce said "It's a hard job but
somebody has to do it" (as he and Victor are walking in the street upon first
meeting one another).  This is bad writing for episodic television.  Sorry,
but the mere inclusion of that line relegates the film to the second or third
rank of hack work for me.  I think Branagh is hideously overrated -- how
can anyone who's seen "Peter's Friends" admire his technique? -- and I'm
delighted that he seems to be getting a critical and commercial
comeuppance for his latest botch.
                        | "And the days are not full enough
      Shawn Levy        |  And the nights are not full enough
  [log in to unmask]   |  And life slips by like a field mouse
                        |                 Not shaking the grass."