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Compare the Creation Scene in James Whale's 1931 Frankenstein and Kenneth Brannagh's 1994 Frankenstein

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Introduction

Compare the Creation Scene in James Whale's 1931 Frankenstein and Kenneth Brannagh's 1994 Frankenstein. James Whale's 1931 portrayal of Frankenstein when compared to Kenneth Brannagh's alternate account from 1994 reveals some similarities but also many differences in the way they try to evoke emotions such as horror, fear and expectation from the audience and keep the plot moving. To do this, the directors have used a series of techniques, including: camera shots, use of sound and music, use of lighting and shadows, and mise-en-scene. Many of the differences and similarities between the films are due to the type of audience that the directors were aiming the films at. For example, Whale uses a very traditional horror opening for his creation scene, while Brannagh uses a more contemporary opening with light play and symbolism through candles and shadows. Some of the other main differences between the two styles of films are how closely the film follows the original book, the style through which genres such as horror, romance and action are portrayed, and the strength of the horror and special effects used to keep the audience in a state of expectancy and tension, but also scared and unsure of the outcome. James Whale was trying to create a shocking and contemporary film, which would scare his 1931 audience and be revolutionary in the techniques he used while still retaining a traditional gothic horror genre, whereas Kenneth Brannagh was trying to create an action film, which follows the original book more closely, and portrays the monster in a way that evokes sympathy for the monster, rather than hatred and violence towards a predetermined evil creation. The establishing shots in each of the films differ completely from each other, yet both are designed to have the same effect in that they both create an unsettling and taut atmosphere for the audience. In James Whale's 1931 representation of Frankenstein, the creation scene starts with an extreme long shot of a dark castle on top of a hill ...read more.

Middle

The next shots show significant similarities but also many discrepancies; in both versions we see a very low angled shot from below Frankenstein, this is very important as it shows that both directors are trying to emphasize the importance of Frankenstein and show that he is still powerful and in control. The directors have chosen to use a shot from below to show Frankenstein's immense size and stature, this is ironic in the 1931 version as in the previous shot Frankenstein was portrayed as small in comparison to his lab and the experiment he was undertaking. However, in the 1931 version there is a tracking shot of Fritz where we see Frankenstein looking up towards Fritz who is climbing down into the lab via a rope from the ceiling, this could have connotations of religion and God as the rope may be a metaphor for a link between heaven and Earth. In comparison to this, in the 1994 version we see a tracking shot of Frankenstein from below as he is running along the corridor, this both makes him look big and imposing, and also allows the audience to get a good look at him as he is rushing towards his experiment. We also see him using a pulley system to lift the monster towards the sky, this has several religious connotations, firstly we can see that the platform is cross shaped, this may refer to Jesus being hung on a cross, which is ironic as he was put there to die, moreover, it looks like monster is being lifted towards heaven as the camera is directly below the monster and there is a bright light above it, this makes it look like a silhouette which increases the tension as the audience still hasn't seen what it looks like, and the bright light surrounding it could represent god and heaven, this ties in with the 1931 film as that has used lots of religious symbols as well. ...read more.

Conclusion

Due to the social historical implications back in 1931, the director had to remove the line "now I know what it feels like to play God," as you were not allowed to say you were like God, however, this does show that it would have had the desired effect of shocking the audience and creating tension as they know what Frankenstein has done is wrong. Similarly to this, in the 1994 version Frankenstein sees the hand of the monster move and its eyes blink open in the tank when he thinks it is dead. This is a very traditional form of awakening and has been used copious times in films, in this scene it would have created tension as the audience, like Frankenstein, would not have known that the creature was alive and so when its eyes opened and hand moved, would have shocked or surprised them. When the monster moves Frankenstein cannot help but say "it's alive" this may be out of disbelief and he is checking reality that it has really worked. As he says this the music starts again very softly and getting slowly louder, this could be signifying hope and relief at the fact that the experiment may have been successful. Also, when the vat gets destroyed by the monster getting out could represent the monster breaking free off its bindings, however, when it is out it seems very vulnerable and childlike, and when he is struggling with Frankenstein he gets accidentally caught in more chains perhaps signifying the fact that he will never be free of his restrains and what he is will always haunt him. In conclusion I find that the 1994 version was more effective at creating tension and followed the book closer, even though it did reveal the monster earlier it still managed to hold the audiences attention well, and the techniques it utilized made sure the audience never really knew how it was going to turn out and what was coming next. ...read more.

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