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Fade in: Amidst the crowd and noise of a swarm of children and their parents in a whirlwind, last-minute attempt to find Halloween costumes and makeup, Kenneth Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter-Branagh stand hand and hand—pinned against an “Austin Powers suit” and the ever-popular “Hershey Kiss” garb. Kenneth’s brows are furrowed and a small wrinkle on his forehead is tense with concern as to how he is going to find anything among the crowds. The door to the store opens occasionally, inviting the crisp October air in—sending small chills up his and Helena’s arms. Helena, standing impatiently in a crimson shawl, weight on one side, looks up at her husband, lips pursed—annoyance dancing in her chocolate eyes.
Helena: Remind me why we’re here again, Kenny?
Kenneth: Oh honey—you know the party’s tomorrow and we couldn’t show up without costumes.
Two noisy youngsters, each with unruly black hair, sucking lollypops run past Kenneth and into Helena—igniting a surge of pain down her side. The children mutter an untranslatable “sorry” before continuing off to look at the sets of fake blood to Helena’s direct left.
Helena: (rubbing her thigh) I know—but why are we here? I mean we have personal assistants to take care of these kinds of things.
Kenneth: Dear, I thought it would be fun. After all, we haven’t had a night out together since I started touring with the Shakespearean Company again.
Voices from the crowd yell “Heads Up!” just as a shelf full of Monster’s Teeth and Spirit Gum tumbles on Helena from above. A small, freckled girl with straw colored pig-tails points at Helena with a pudgy finger.
Girl: (sardonically) We said...HEADS UP!
Ignoring the pain in her leg, Helena rubs her forehead while pulling a pair of green Monster Teeth out of her tousled curls.
Helena: (mumbles to Kenneth) Fun. . .right. . .
Kenneth: (tugging on their laced hands) Come dear, lets go ask the lady at the counter so we can leave and go get some sleep. I don’t want to have bags under my eyes tomorrow in front of our Hollywood friends.
Weaving through the crowds of people, Kenneth spots a store clerk wearing a “Hello my name is: Sarah” nametag standing behind a short female customer.
Kenneth: Excuse me?. . .uh, excuse me!
Sarah looks up at Kenneth, squinting viciously in his direction.
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Kenneth: Miss. . .excuse me—I need a costume. . .
The customer in front of Sarah turns abruptly, facing Kenneth.
Customer: Don’t we all, Buddy!
Kenneth’s eyes open wide as he gasps, the realization of who the woman in front of him is, hitting him like a cracked whip.
Mary Shelley’s heart shaped mouth opens in an “O” of surprise, as she raises a delicate hand to her head.
Mary: Kenneth? What are you doing here?
Kenneth: Helena and I are here to get Halloween costumes for a party we are going to tomorrow night.
Mary: (quizzically) Helena and I? . . .
Kenneth shifts his position to reveal the petite Helena at his side, who smiles politely at Mary.
Mary: My. . .my. . .my—Helena Bonham Carter. . . what are you doing here with Kenneth?
Helena: (placing a finger possessively on Kenneth’s chest) Helena Bonham Carter-Branagh— Kenny and I were married last winter. (She holds a delicate hand to Mary, revealing the marble-sized diamond on her ring finger)
Mary: (dryly) How lovely. How come I wasn’t invited to the wedding?
An awkward silence ensues, during which Kenneth and Helena exchanging uncomfortable glances.
Kenneth: Well, Mary—ever since the premiere in ’94, we haven’t really kept in touch. . .
Mary holds two hands up to her throat and begins to gag
Helena: Oh gosh! Kenny, what should we do?
Mary: (ushering to her pocket, speaking between gasps) My. . .in-ha-ler. . .
After a few short breaths in her inhaler, Mary’s breathing continues normally. She shakes her head a few times and rubs her temples.
Mary: That hasn’t happened to me in a while now—it’s just, whenever anyone mentions. . .
Kenneth: What? All I was going to say, was, we haven’t seen each other since Mary Shelley’s Fran—
Mary reaches for her inhaler once again and coughs, silencing Kenneth from continuing his statement.
Helena: Are you still upset about Kenny’s film? We sort of got the opinion that you weren’t to happy about it when you ran out of the screening crying. . .
Mary: (waving Helena’s comment aside) Who me? Still upset? No! I am fine now. . .yes, it has taken me some time. . .(her voice lowers) and six years of therapy visits to get over it, but really—I’m alright now.
Sarah, the clerk, taps her foot audibly to divert Mary’s attention.
Sarah: M’am, did you want a costume or not?
Mary: Oh, sorry—uh, yes. I’m going to a Hollywood Halloween party tomorrow night—what do you suggest?
Sarah: (uninterested) I don’t know, I just work here.
Mary: (as if trying to make sense out of Sarah’s statement) Ok. . .well, do you have a brochure I can look through?
Sarah: (annoyed, exhaling) I’ll be right back.
Kenneth: Mary, did we hear you say you are going to a Hollywood party tomorrow? It wouldn’t be at the Chinese theatre would it?
Mary: Yes, in fact—how’d you know?
Kenneth: Helena and I are flying there tomorrow morning for the same party!
Mary: Well, I didn’t want to go—but since the theme this year is “Frankenstein”—and they are showing your film. ..my agent said I just had to go.
Helena: Why do you sound so unenthusiastic?
Mary: I just don’t know if I can handle it—I mean, I’ve been doing quite well in therapy, and my doctor said I am ready to go on with my life. . .
Kenneth: (sputtering). . .I don’t understand, Mary—what’s so wrong with my movie? I truly tried to follow your novel accurately—what’s the matter?
Mary: I don’t know if we should go into this right now. (She gestures to the crowded store) I mean, there are children around.
Kenneth: Mary, we are adults—we should discuss this now. We are going to have to attend the party together tomorrow. After all, the paparrazzi is going to expect us to be friends. . .
Mary: (fingering her inhaler) Well. . .I haven’t discussed my feelings for six years now! This could take some time—
Sarah appears, throwing a costume brochure in Mary’s arms, interrupting the conversation at hand.
Sarah: You only have an hour! (she gestures to her watch) We close at 8:00 tonight!
Mary clears her throat. Her eyes search the store room as if it holds “cue cards” of some sort—she exhales deeply, then looks apologetically at Kenneth before beginning.
Mary: Well, Kenneth, I am a big fan of you as a director. . .I’ve seen Hamlet so many times I have lost count, but, when it comes to telling my story. . .uh. . .
Kenneth: Mary! Come on, tell me what’s on your mind. I am a big time star you know. (Kenneth pauses, raising his eyebrows for dramatic effect)
Helena: Yes—he’s already starred in 14 films, directing 7 of them—22 plays—and 31 television shows.
Kenneth: Not to mention that fact that I have numerous Oscars, British Academy Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards under my belt. . .it is not like I can’t handle a little constructive criticism. (Kenneth giggles smugly)
Mary: (startled by Kenneth’s egotism) Well then Kenneth, if you put it that way. . .What were you thinking—making Elizabeth such a prominent role in the movie? I mean, I came away from the theater remembering much more of what her character did and said, than Frankenstein’s. The character of Elizabeth in my novel was a secondary figure. . .you turned her (she gestures in Helena’s direction) into a starring role!
A few faces in the store turn around disapprovingly at the noise launching from Mary, Kenneth, and Helena’s conversation.
Kenneth: Mary, Mary. . .calm down—my intentions were well thought out, and deciding to expand on the role of Elizabeth was a small part of my artistic vision. (Kenneth waves his hand above his head upon the utterance of the word “vision”) I just think, your story would have been better off with a true female heroine—
Mary throws her arms in the air, interrupting Kenneth.
Mary: I can’t believe you would suggest something so—
Kenneth: Hold on, Mary, let me finish. I decided to expand dramatically on the role of Elizabeth in order to gain a sense of sympathy by the viewers for Frankenstein’s character. In my movie, it is evident that Frankenstein has a lot of love within him. That love is effectively expressed to Elizabeth, within minutes of the film’s opening, as the two waltz gracefully out into the moonlit evening during Frankenstein’s graduation party. On the patio to his family’s estate, Frankenstein wraps his arm around Elizabeth, holds her in a passionate embrace, and plants a stream of delicious kisses over her. He then asks for her hand in marriage. Viewers of my movie are initially invited to witness a warm side of Frankenstein—one that you often neglect to articulate in your novel. Elizabeth is the sole instigator of Frankenstein’s loving nature in my movie. She brings out the best in him. Before Frankenstein leaves for Ingolsdadt, she decrees, “I want to make this house live again—go do the great things you need to do. . .” (Branagh). Elizabeth believes in Frankenstein, and brings a lovely humanistic quality to my movie.
Mary “tsk-tsks” and shakes her head disappointedly.
Mary: I don’t see the need for “a warm side of Frankenstein” in the story, Kenneth. As I specifically quoted, when asked, what the purpose of my writing was, I replied, “to think of a story—a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror—” (195). I did not intend to write a romance novel—although if I did, I am sure it would have been just as wonderful. . .
Helena: (coughing into her hand, so that her words are mumbled). . .you’ve certainly had enough experience in that department . . .
Mary: What was that, Helena?
Before Helena can respond, Sarah appears once again
Sarah: Have you made a decision yet?
Mary: (shaking her head, her eyes not diverting from Helena’s porcelain face) Not yet.
Sarah: Ma’m, need I remind you we close at—
Mary: Yes, 8:00. (turning back to Kenneth) Now Kenenth, my problem with your character of Elizabeth (once again, she points at Helena) is that I feel you took an unwarranted approach, and changed the character from my story. My Elizabeth was the typical British woman—who stayed primarily in the house, and attended to purely “female” duties such as to“render her uncle and cousins happy. . .amuse her uncle, instruct (Frankenstein’s) brothers. . .(and) continually endeavour to contribute to the happiness of others, entirely forgetful of herself” (27).
Kenneth: Elaborated, my dear Mary—not changed! I merely elaborated on the character of Elizabeth, as her vigor in my movie did not take away from your original story. For instance, as you wrote in the novel—“Elizabeth alone had the power to draw me from these fits; her gentle voice would soothe me when transported by passion, and inspire me with human feelings when sunk in torpor...when reason returned, she would remonstrate, and endeavor to inspire me with resignation...” (160)—See now Mary, you conveyed the same burning passion in your character as I did mine. As her character developed, I saw it fit to complicate her relationship with Frankenstein, hence the scene’s in which the two outwardly showed their physical attraction for one another. Like I said before, the “love” aspect of my film initiated a side of Frankenstein, that had not before been explored—and the character of Elizabeth was my avenue to do so.
Helena, glancing lovingly at her husband, plants a lingering kiss on Kenneth’s parted lips, much to the disgust of the on-looking Mary.
Helena: (giggling, her face inches from Kenneth’s) And it gave us an excuse to do all those wonderful love scenes together, darling!
Mary: Well, well, well—using my story to explore your inner teenager, Kenneth? I never would have guessed.
Kenneth immediately retreats from Helena’s embrace.
Kenneth: I would never Mary! On the sets of my films, I am strictly professional. By showing a warm side of Frankenstein, and then exposing viewers with the horrific side of him—that you are more concerned with in your novel—I attempted to orient the viewers into the kaleidoscopic nature of Frankenstein’s character.
Mary: You mean dynamic nature—
Helena: (erecting her frail frame, so that she is an even height with Mary) He means kaleidoscopic! Frankenstein continues to remain one of the most unsure, or rather undecided literary characters of all time. He creates another being, admonishing that “no one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore (him) onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success” (36) This implies that he in fact acknowledged a strange sensation within him. . .he was rational and conscience of his toils. Yet after bringing the creature to life, and realizing what was to become of his life after attaining an intellectual Star Trek of sorts—
Mary: —um. . .Star Trek?
Helena: Yes! Frankenstein journeyed to a realm of science and moral question that no other had gone before! Frankenstein says directly after creating his monster, “no mortal could support the horror of (the) countenance. . . Mingled with this horror, I felt the bitterness of disappointment: dreams that had been my food and pleasant rest for so long a space, were now become a hell to me; and the change was so rapid, the overthrow so complete!” (40). Frankenstein, directly refers to a change in the sensation that before surged through him. Before the creation, he was encouraged to continue his project, yet when it was complete, the sensation overwhelmed his existence.
Mary: I do see what you are saying, and Frankenstein is no doubt a complex figure. The reason I chose the word dynamic as opposed to kaleidoscopic, is because I feel as if he is accurately “two-faced”. Frankenstein is either energized by his creation, or appalled by it. Two sides of a coin if you will. Frankenstein’s emotions are on widely varied ends of the spectrum, and he has no intermediate feelings.
While carrying a load of gory masks to a nearby shelf, Sarah nods to Mary.
Mary: (speaks to Kenneth and Helena who are in ear shot) I have no clue what to wear to the party tomorrow night—I haven’t worn a mask or anything in such a long time!
Helena: (coughing into her hand once again) You certainly could’ve fooled me. . .
Mary: (to Sarah) What about a writer? (she shrugs to Kenneth) Do you have a costume for that?
Sarah: (laughing cruelly) Sure Ma’m, it’s right next to the banker costume!
Mary, pained, ignores Sarah.
Helena: How about a witch?
Helena, seeing the scorned look line Mary’s face shrugs apologetically. The store door opens, bringing with it, the wind’s icy finger—which causes Helena to shudder considerably. Kenneth gestures outside to the chilly night air.
Kenneth: (smiling as though he knows something that no one else does) Atmosphere—isn’t it wonderful? It can change an ordinary scene into something emotionally stimulating. Take this store for example, an ordinary backdrop; but add a breeze, and it takes on a more allusive aura. (Kenneth wraps a warm arm around Helena to melt away the chill) I employed the same device in my film—although not with temperature of course, but with dramatic camera angles, that accurately transported the viewers into the frenzy of my scenes.
Mary: Yes! I noticed that in the more dramatic scenes.
Kenneth: Good—I wasn’t sure if the average viewer would pick up on it or not.
Mary: Kenneth, let’s face it—I’m hardly average. You could go so far as to say…that I wrote the book on Frankenstein. (pauses to giggle at her own attempt at dry humor) But, please, explain.
Kenneth: (not at all amused by Mary’s wry crack) In the scenes in which my goals were to show Frankenstein’s confusion and/or dilemmas, I turned the camera—so the angle of the film was diagonal, and therefore, the frames being shot appeared crooked to say the least. Kind of like artists do to relate tension in comic book frames. By positioning the camera, so the angle was diagonal—the scenes in which that technique was used, had a scene of urgency and impending drama.
Mary: (nodding approvingly) Yes—if I remember correctly, the first time that technique was employed, was when Frankenstein first began to tell his story to Walton in the arctic, right?
Kenneth: Correct—at that point of the movie, viewers do not yet know what to make of Frankenstein’s character. . .
Mary: That is unless they’ve read the book, Kenneth. . .
Kenneth shakes his head as if explaining something to a young child.
Kenneth: Mary, Mary…the only way the “X” generation would ever pick up a book is if it had the words “Harry Potter by: J.K. Rowling” on the front cover.
In illustration to Kenneth’s statement, three small children pass Mary holding “Harry Potter” wands and wizard hats, laughing and excitedly predicting tomorrow night’s adventures.
Mary: Rowling, huh? Well, it’s good to know we Brits still have it in us!
Helena: (sarcastically) Oh Mary! I’m so glad that after all these years you haven’t lost your sense of humor. Please continue Kenneth, it’s getting late—and we still need costumes!
Mary: (begins dryly, occasionally rolling her eyes) Go on Kenneth, I believe you were trying to explain your strategically positioned camera angles to an average viewer like myself.
Kenneth: Ha…ha—oh yes! Since viewers are not sure what Frankenstein’s story will entail in the films beginning—the camera angle foreshadows the imbalance and inconsistency in his character to come. I utilized the same technique after Frankenstein met with his creature in the ice cave. Amidst the frosted glaciers in the backdrop of a juxtapositional fire, representing the creature’s feelings of “love which (he) can scarcely imagine, and rage which (he) can scarcely believe,” the creature continued to demand, “I want a female. Someone like me so she won’t hate me” (Branagh). As Frankenstein comes back to his family’s estate directly after his engagement with the creature and is encountered by Elizabeth—the camera shoots again to a diagonal angle. Frankenstein was confronted with a serious decision—that of deciding whether or not to create a mate for the monster, and therefore the camera angle parallels his same torment.
Mary: Nice analysis Kenneth! For years many film versions of my story have been released, all with no regard for the complexity of my characters. As I wrote in my novel in the same general scene that we are discussing, Frankenstein says, “Can you wonder, that sometimes a kind of insanity possessed me, or that I saw continually about me a multitude of filthy animals inflicting on me incessant torture. . .” (123) There, Frankenstein admits to the multi-layer aspect of his own soul.
Kenneth: Exactly! That is why I found it so appropriate for the writer of my movie to include the line in which Frankenstein says “There’s something in my soul I do not understand…” (Branagh).
Mary: That line appeared in the ice cave scene as well, correct?
Mary: That indeed was one of my favorite scenes in the film; not only for its wonderfully adapted dialogue from my novel, but also because it allowed viewers further insight into the creature’s character—who by no means should have been played by Robert de Niro, but that’s a whole other story all together—but…
Helena: What do you mean? Robert de Niro is a brilliant actor with quite a following. I know Kenny paid a large sum just to have him sign on the project!
Mary: (laughing as if she has already said something funny, and motioning towards Kenneth) Exactly Kenneth, the money you could have saved from casting an unknown actor in a part where the makeup didn’t allow you to see who was playing the creature anyway—could have been spent to adding “breath” to the character’s in the initial sub-zero arctic scene!
Helena: Shows what you know, Mary—Kenny’s film happened to win an Oscar for “Best Makeup”!
Mary: How admirable. At any rate, I was just trying to rile a “big time star” like yourself, Kenneth. Now as I was saying, in your movie, the creature, in trying to explain his situation to Frankenstein in the ice cave says, “I speak, read, think, and know the ways of man…” (Branagh) But notice, in that sequence of qualities—the creature never mentions anything about his feelings. It is a wonderful paradoxical comparison, that the creature is able to do the mechanical operations of a human being—but wasn’t given the emotional ones by his creator. The syntax of the line after was wonderful in that the creature describes the heinous murder of William.
A small boy, attempting to fit a rather large, grotesque pair of monster teeth in his own mouth, points at Mary excitedly.
Small Boy: (mumbling due to his “new” pair of teeth) Cool—did you say murder!
Kenneth, sensing an unwanted scene approaching, ushers Mary and Helena away from the shelf of monster teeth, and resumes his conversation near the glass counter top. He rests his elbows on the glass, then looks down at his distorted reflection before continuing.
Kenneth: I’m not so sure I follow what you are saying.
Mary: As we’ve established in the film, Frankenstein’s character becomes one of an “imbalanced teeter-totter” of sorts—undulating dramatically to widely different emotions. And as I’ve just brought up—the creature, in both your film visually, and in my novel, poetically; is seen as having many of those same characteristics. He compels Frankenstein to believe he has wonderfully human qualities, yet in the following line—describes the pleasure he felt in committing murder—an attribute highly inhuman. Notice the same fickle traits? Like creator, like creation, I think you could say?
Helena: Mary, are you implying that Frankenstein gave certain characteristics to his creation, much like offspring inherit traits from their parents. A strange sort of hereditary transmission…ha, ha!
Mary: Well yes…partly, but I am also concluding that my story has many instances in which religion, the ultimate authority over mankind, comes in direct contact with the mortal characters that it influences.
Kenneth: I see, (rubbing the graying hair on his chin) it is like—
Noticing Sarah once again, Kenneth clicks his fingers to attract her attention.
Kenneth: Excuse me, Mary. Um. . .Sarah—my wife and I need matching costumes please.
Sarah: (un-amused) I hope you have a better idea of what you want then your friend does.
Helena: Believe me, she’s hardly a friend. . .(looking at Mary with a sickenly exaggerated smile) Anyway, we would like a “Frankenstein” costume and an “Igor” costume, please. (eyeing Mary triumphantly) For old times sake. . .
Sarah nods and turns on her heel. Mary, reaches for her inhaler, turning a pale shade of white.
Mary: After all these years! My characters are no longer remembered for what they truly are! Frankenstein is not the monster, and likewise, Igor is not Frankenstein’s assistant! What is wrong with the world today? (looking at the pleasant gleam in Helena’s eyes) In any case, Sarah? I would like a (continues, stumbling over the word) Fr—ank—enst—ein costume too.
Helena: (hands on hips, fuming) Mary! We can’t show up at the party wearing the exact same thing!
Kenneth: Not now, dear. Anyway, Mary—back to what we were saying—I know what you mean about the religious significance of your story. That is why I encompassed a lot of spiritual and religious overtones in my film as you did in your novel. Implying that a religious boundary exists, and that most humans live by it, makes Frankenstein’s actions more significantly immoral when he attempts to supersede those boundaries. Even Henry Clerval, Frankenstein’s best friend announces at a point during Frankenstein’s scientific pursuit, “There is only one God!” (Branagh) Frankenstein’s professor at Ingolsdat also continues to advocate that “Life is life and death is death. What you are suggesting is not only illegal, but is also immoral” (Branagh).
Mary: Ken, I wouldn’t go that far now!
Kenneth: But Mary, you did in actuality. You wrote that Frankenstein said, “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me,” (36). Is Frankenstein not assuming a God-like authority over his creation?
Mary, apparently baffled by Kenneth’s insinuations, is speechless.
Kenneth: I believe both religion and the power of reaching an omnipotent state play an intricate role in your story. In my movie, I tried to reinforce that same notion. For instance, as Walton first describes to Frankenstein his goals in the arctic, he expounds, “I will be held as the benefactor of my species” (Branagh). Most individuals, like Walton and Frankenstein, dream of reaching an omnipotent state, yet few attain the power to do so. Your novel explores the often neglected negative results of that seemingly life-altering position.
Mary’s evergreen eyes come alive with excitement as she hurries to respond.
Mary: My story in essence, illuminates the horror of exceeding conscience boundaries. In most cases, religion provides for the ultimate restraint on mankind. I noticed you used many symbols throughout your movie to reacquaint viewers with the ever-present nature of religion.
Kenneth: Glad you noticed, Mary. One of the more obvious examples is in the scene as Elizabeth threatens to leave Frankenstein forever, and he pleads her to stay. The two meet in the foyer of Frankenstein’s estate, her bags packed, and her cheeks flushed with color. Notice, I filmed Frankenstein in a medium range shot to the absolute far right of the screen. His figure is paired merely with an ornate wooden cross directly over his left shoulder. The irony in this scene results as Frankenstein is so visually close in proximity to the presence of a religious artifact—or an authoritative figure, if you will—but doesn’t realize it…or rather, chooses to dismiss it.
Mary: Lovely! You know Kenneth, perhaps one of your most well thought out avenues of telling my story was how you not only reinforced the concept of religion, and the power of attaining a divine position with artifacts obvious to the viewer; but also, how you managed to squeeze in symbols that have a variegrated effect. Like Frankenstein’s journal for instance.
Kenneth looks at Mary confused—her eyes are dancing like she has just figured out an unsolved
mystery. He tries to hide his expression, not letting on that he has no clue what she is talking about.
Kenneth: (raising his tone a single octave) His journal? Oh. . .why of course. . .
His sentence breaks as he drops the end of the line, he again looks at his reflection in the glass below. Mary doesn’t seem to notice, and continues talking excitedly.
Mary: In continuing with the quest for divinity theme, it was absolutely brilliant for you to incorporate Frankenstein’s journal into the theme as well—by making it “a Bible” of sorts.
Kenneth: (coughs slightly, masking his utter puzzlement) Bible. . .er—yes, that’s right.
Mary: I don’t know how you thought of that, Ken. I mean think about it, a Bible—a divine book assumed to have been written by a creator of sorts, outlining the rules, regulations, and creation of and for mankind—
Helena nudges Kenneth, elbowing his side. She smiles triumphantly as he takes her cue.
Kenneth: (catching on, and quite amused by Mary’s observation, continues exaggeratedly) Oh well of course. . .if one would compare Frankenstein to a God-like figure, one could also say his journal proved to be the “Bible” for his creations. It included the creation history, and system of regulations—in Frankenstein’s case, the recipe for creation—much like a Bible.
Mary: I’m so glad we see eye to eye Ken.
Kenneth: (stifles a giggle) Sure Mary. Have you thought about the further irony one could assume from my work?
Mary: No—but please, do tell.
Kenneth: A great source of irony is the inscription that Frankenstein’s mother wrote in the journal before it was given to him upon his graduation. “Behold the deeds of a noble life...” (Branagh). The writings in his journal were anything but noble! But in fact, those words are similar to ones likely to be found in the beginning of a holy story outlining the life of a
hero. . .ironic, don’t you think?
Mary: Well, I am glad we got a few things sorted out. It will surely make attending the party tomorrow a lot easier, now that we’ve gotten our feelings out in the open.
Kenneth: I agree—it’s a shame we didn’t do this sooner.
Mary’s facial expression grows taunt. She removes her inhaler, looks at it nostalgically, then forcefully shoves it back into her pocket. She lightly bits her pale lip, then vulnerably glances upward at Kenneth’s awaiting face.
Mary: Looks like I wont be needing this anymore. (She fingers the bulge in her pocket and shakes her head) Six years of my life down the tube! I went to therapy all that time looking for the cure it took you and I minutes to find. I do have one last question though, Kenneth. . .I don’t understand why your movie is this year’s party theme? (She smiles feebly at Kenneth)
Helena: That’s easy, because it is a masterpiece?
The lights in the store lower—until only a small spotlight overhead bathes Kenneth in a dim glow. A syrupy instrumental accompaniment permeates the room.
Kenneth: (giggling at Helena, yet not allowing his amusement to filter over to Mary) No—the theme isn’t my movie—it’s “Frankenstein”. Your story is timeless, and due to its universal appeal, it will forever continue to thrive. Frankenstein has been, and will be, the source of great stimulation for many creative minds—like myself. The story urges its undertakers to conjure thoughts of boundless magnitudes, often those defying ethical conceptions. Frankenstein chose to create life from death, he “beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life” (34). No one, with the exception of a Divine Being has that ability. Frankenstein, although having found a way to create life still emulates a mystified mortal in that “(he) found so astonishing a power placed within (his) hands, and hesitated a long time concerning the manner in which (he) should employ it” (35). The realization of the power of his scientific exploration hit him dramatically, and he was unsure of what to do with it. I am sure your readers, and my viewers have felt that way before—the insinuation of unattainable power, that finnaly is within ones reach will always paradoxically be, a fascination and fear of individuals alike. As the character of the blind cottager in my movie urges to his family, “nothing in this life comes free of cost,” (Branagh). Frankenstein, if any character in your story—could have benefitted from that caution. So you see Mary, it is only relevent for this year’s Halloween party theme to be the classic tale of Frankenstein. It is one of the few stories of our time that has accurately paired fear with admonition—and in fact Mary, you have kept your promise, to write a story “to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart” (195).
Interrupting the sentimental aura between Kenneth and Mary, Sarah appears, a forlorn expression pulling at her features.
Sarah: (pointing to her watch) I have some bad news and some good news. First of all, I only have one Frankenstein costume left in the storage room—and since we close in 5 minutes, I can’t order one for you, that will be here before tomorrow night. The good news is, I do have an Egor costume for you, sir. (she lightly tosses a packaged costume to Kenneth, who catches it with ease.)
Helena eyes Mary scornfully, who too mirrors her expression of repulsion. Helena thinks quickly, as if devising a plan, nibbling on her full lip. She cups her hand over her forehead, and squints exaggeratedly, pointing at the store door.
Helena: Mary, look! Is that Percy. . .there with another woman?!
Mary turns quickly in the direction Helena is pointing. As her back is to Helena, Helena lunges for the costume clenched in Sarah’s unsuspecting arms, grabs it, urgently pulls Kenneth firmly in her grasp, and the two escape out of the door—into the cool, crisp, October air.
Fade to black.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Kenneth Branagh, Robert De Niro, Helena Bonham Carter. Videocassette. Tristar Pictures, 1994.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.