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

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Emma Partington Media Coursework "Compare the way in which the directors of 'Mary Shelly's Frankenstein' (1994) and 'Frankenstein' (1931) use different techniques to build up atmosphere in their opening sequences Mary Shelley was only 18 when she wrote Frankenstein, a novel that has come to be one of the most famous horror stories of all time portrayed both on stage and screen. The story itself deals with an ambitious young scientist who creates life, but then rejects his procreation of a monster. James Whale, a Hollywood director with a history of theatre, was the first to adapt Shelley's original text into a film in 1931, starring Borris Karloff as the monster. Whale was directing at a time when the Hollywood industry was very young; the audience of its time had never seen anything like Frankenstein and were easily shocked. Whale's image of Frankenstein's monster has become one of the most well known in the western world. In 1994, British born director Kenneth Branagh directed and produced another version of the film, starring Robert De Niro as the monster. Branagh's monster portrayed quite a different image to the square headed vision most were used to. In 1994 Hollywood was nothing out of the ordinary and it was necessary to think up new methods to scare and shock the ever-demanding audience. ...read more.


When Frankenstein is digging the grave up, he throws dirt over the statue, perhaps representing how he has no respect for death. The props and costumes are used reflect the setting and atmosphere. Dr. Frankenstein's clothes differ from the rest of the cast, wearing a cravat and white shirt; the director may have done this to represent his higher status in society, compared to the mourners or Frankenstein's hunchback assistant. In Branagh's film the costumes are all very similar, they play no major part in the first four minutes studied. However they help to keep in with the mono colour of the ice and pale faces. These bland colours create a stark and dramatic contrast to the bright red blood which comes on screen when the monster's hand dramatically appears. The make up worn by the characters in Whale's film is heavy, pronounced and very theatrical; designed so that people in the theatre could see the faces from far away, but on camera it looks exaggerated and over the top. Branagh has used make-up subtly and realistically, creating red cheeks to show cold conditions alongside messy hair and unshaven faces to represent the length of time since the characters have been near civilization. Whale's theatrical past suggests why all the facial expressions and movements are prominent and exaggerated. ...read more.


As an audience in the 20 and 21st century, we are so used to the conventional shock tactics, that we fail to take into account their effect in older films, such as Whale's Frankenstein. Although aspects of Whale's production may seem dated to today's audience, there's an atmosphere present that would be hard to re-create, even with technological advances. Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein, for all its use of modern technology, lacks the atmospheric build up that Whale's seems to have. Whale's film is more like the nineteenth century novel; his style suits the slow unveiling of narrative, as in the book, whereas Branagh conveys a sense of action and fast moving suspense to satisfy the ever-demanding audience. The fast moving action means that Branagh has not had a chance to build up a sense of fear; everything is over dramatized and with a very fast pace. Although Branagh has indeed created an atmospheric build up, using all the modern technology available, James Whale's Frankenstein has stood the test of time and, although it was directed 63 years before Branagh's, has used the most effective techniques available to build up an atmosphere of tension and fear. If an audience of today find Whale's directing more or equally effective than Branagh's then imagine how well it would have worked on audiences unaccustomed to this level of horror within a film. ...read more.

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