This is a rare gem of a film. It was the first motion picture adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel and it doesn’t bare much resemblance to the complexities of that book, but then again it’s only 16 minutes long, so I guess they had to seriously edit! Hehehe It was produced by the Edison Company and was shot in three days. This film does, however, add an interesting element that other versions, to my knowledge, have never added, and that is that the creature is all inside Dr. Frankenstein’s head. Which on a symbolic level completely works with the original theme.
There’s so much to say about this complex novel and its exploration of Man as God the Creator, its intertextuality to previous source material such as John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, or its representation of a creature who only wants a mate so he can disappear into a very Rousseauvian State of Nature, free from societal prejudices and social ideas of human behavior. There does seem to be one element that permeates through every depiction of this narrative whether it’s on paper of film, and that’s the element of ‘OTHERNESS’.
Institutions are defined by what they exclude. And while otherness may be used for scapegoating, that’s not its main function in this story. Frankenstein is a story of exclusion. The creature (I don’t like the term Monster as it has a horribly negative connotation) comes into the narrative as a child in a full grown man’s body. This alone is reason enough for society to exclude him from their ideas of social normality. Just look at all the characters who are just like him - Lenny from Of Mice and Men to Forrest Gump. Boo Radley is villainized in To Kill a Mockingbird. The Man-Child is a troupe in narrative. We see him as children in such stories as Peter Pan, and Dopey in the Seven Dwarfs, and of course Tigger when compared to the other characters in Winnie the Pooh. In other literature we see it in Billy Budd, Dorian Gray, and the play Amadeus! Society has to exclude these types of characters because they do not fill the social construction of the strong, adult male. Even as far back as the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, the character of Grendel is othered and excluded by Hrothgar’s community celebrations in the mead hall and that’s what brings the ‘monster’ out for revenge.
Frankenstein is a child learning through experience and his senses. But he is an orphaned child, abandoned by his creator/father Victor. It’s this negative experience of other’s rejection that leads to his own self-loathing. He simply craves unprejudiced companionship and asks Victor to create him a mate. It’s Victor’s refusal that leads to the creature’s dark state of mind and following tragic events.
How often do we reject what we do not understand or that we see as different? If you ask me, it’s still happening way too often in our society that still struggles with exclusion as its tool of definition. Have we learned nothing from Mary Shelley?
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