Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

After reading the book Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and then seeing several adaptations done for the silver screen, there are changes that the films make to the book. The most evident change that jumps out at me is the portrayal of Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The common missing element in all of the film versions of the classic novel is the way they treat the character of Victor. The films all tend to downplay what a “monster” Victor is and instead stress how much of a monster the Creature is. The films seem to stress less on the responsibility and guilt that Victor feels over his creation, which is shown in the book. Instead of taking the stance on “a crime against nature” for trying to play God, the films spin the film as “a science experiment gone wrong”.

When reading the book Frankenstein, and looking at the character of Victor, one can not help but see his character flaws. Dr. Frankenstein is portrayed as selfish, ego manic bent on restoring life to his stitched together creature, and doesn’t stop to think of the consequences. Though not till later in the book, as Victor and Elizabeth are to be wed, his true selfish nature emerges once again. Victor believes that the Creature is coming to seek revenge on him, not for a moment thinking about the well being of his bride to be, Elizabeth (144). In the novel it is all about Victor and his selfishness, where as in the film versions, it looks as though Victor is trying to protect Elizabeth. Whether it had been a noise outside or a quick motion of a shadow, in the films its looks as if Victor is trying to protect Elizabeth.

A place in the book where it couldn’t be more evident of his guilt and shame of his creature is after it rises up, the birth of the Creature (35). Instead of feeding off this power scene and theme from the book, the directors of the films missed this opportunity. In the 1994 film Frankenstein, directed by Kenneth Branagh, Branagh changes this scene in the movie by having Victor believe he has accidentally killed the creature, and that all his guilt is believed to be gone. By changing this scene, Kenneth Branagh failed to capture the sense of out casting and lack of feelings Victor shows toward the Creature as he did in the book.

The biggest change in the novel to film adaptations is undisputedly the Creature. Obviously for time constraints...

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...for good. However he does try to use the knowledge he gains for good, by trying to help out the family in the woods, but because society rejects him he lashes out against them and his creator, Victor.

Most of the film versions of Frankenstein have chosen to not take the theme of “attainment/abuse of knowledge” as a major theme. They have mainly tended to focus on the aspect of a “monster movie” theme; this less intelligent monster terrorizing the country-side and on the hunt after its creator. However the most recent movie of Frankenstein, done by Hallmark Pictures, is the closest representation of the original Mary Shelley novel. This movie tends to add elements that are not in previous films, such as showing glimpses of Elizabeth’s and Henry’s positive use of their knowledge. The monstrous nature of the Creature is amplified in my opinion by actually showing his higher intelligence in the Hallmark version of the film. He comes off as more sinister because of his high intelligence level. Though the Hallmark version of Frankenstein is one of the better to date, none of the film versions of Frankenstein have used knowledge, the abuse and attainment of it, as a major theme.