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Compare and contrast the way in which the directors of 'Mary Shelley's Frankenstein' (1994) and 'Frankenstein' (1931) use different film techniques to build up atmosphere in their opening sequences:

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Introduction

English GCSE Media Coursework October/November 2002 Eva Martin 10W Compare and contrast the way in which the directors of 'Mary Shelley's Frankenstein' (1994) and 'Frankenstein' (1931) use different film techniques to build up atmosphere in their opening sequences: The two films I will be addressing in this essay are Kenneth Branagh's and James Whale's versions of 'Frankenstein', a horror novel written by Mary Shelley in 1816, when the author was 19. The incentive for it was provided by the famous poet, Byron, who was a friend of Mary Shelley and suggested they write horror stories as a pastime. His was never published. Many adaptations have been made for cinema in the 20th century, those addressed in this essay being the most significant. I hope to compare and contrast the opening sequence in each film, based on the most successful aspects of their filmmaking, namely, use of camera, sound, editing, lighting and colour and mise en sc�ne (i.e. setting, props, costume, body language of actors and make-up). The first film I will be analysing will be 'Frankenstein', directed by James Whale. It is a black and white adaptation, released in 1931, which was a period in Hollywood's history commonly considered a 'golden age'- Hollywood was young but its films considered innovative and impressive, and the success of this film is what launched Boris Karloff's legendary career. ...read more.

Middle

Mise en sc�ne extends to clothes and make-up, and the way Dr. Frankenstein and Fritz are portrayed using the above says quite a lot about how the director wishes you to see them- thus causing you to judge them more or less harshly for the events that ensue. Dr. Frankenstein is dresses fully in black, apart from a white shirt, and looks very smart. You can tell by Fritz's facial expressions and way of moving that he is inferior to Dr. Frankenstein- he limps and does not exert as much control over his way of behaving. You can also tell by what he is wearing the he is Dr. Frankenstein's servant, as he is wearing a butler-type uniform. Their make-up is also exaggerated to clarify their roles and relationship, and is used to bring out the pallor of Fritz's complexion, especially in comparison to the darkness of his eyes, which makes him look diseased, deceitful, and to an extent, evil. The fact that Dr. Frankenstein and Fritz are so stereotypically portrayed is interesting when James Whale's background in theatre is taken into account. Fritz is depicted almost as a caricature of a typical villain, and having the make-up revert him to an archetype is a technique traditionally used in pantomime and on stage in general, a decision which could have been influence by James Whale's experience in working as a theatre director. ...read more.

Conclusion

of the monster's hand when he finally appears- you do not see him throughout the time when he is slaying the dogs. This dramatic jump cut (a form of editing where the audience's attention is drawn sharply towards something on screen) is a good way of ending the sequence on a note of suspense, which shows just how well the atmosphere has been built throughout the scene. Both sequences are completely different, but both managed to impress the audience at the time of their release. I believe that this was done by developing the themes present in the book that could shock an audience of that time period most, taking into account the resources and special techniques available at the time. In James Whale's version this is the theme of science versus religion, whereas in Kenneth Branagh's it is the theme of the unnatural violence that the monster is capable of. This is why I believe the two films differ so much- the older version does not need high sound quality or subtlety- it simply needs to show its audience the sacrilege that Dr. Frankenstein is committing in digging up the graveyard. However, for this reason, the newer version requires strong special effects and state of the art sound quality- the horror is in the reality and the reality cannot be achieved if the above look even remotely unrealistic. This is why the atmosphere of the two sequences is so different (and therefore the techniques used to create it, too), yet they are both so successful. ...read more.

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