The Mad Genius: Victor Frankenstein
By Najia Almas (PhD Scholar)
and Dr. Nausheen Zaheer
The movie opens and the scene is narrated by a hunchback clown (Daniel Radcliffe) of the circus in London, who in the beginning tells about his apparent condition and miserable slave life in the circus. The narrator is fond of human anatomy and possses strong feelings for a girl Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findley) in circus who fells from the height and when he (Daniel Radcliffe) crawled to rescue her (Jessica Brown Findley) found a spectator helping him save the girl’s life. The spectator appeared to be a wealthy medical student named Victor Frankenstein (James McAcoy), who helped the clown escape the circus and later brings an absolute change in his (Daniel Radcliffe) life by curing his hunch of the back and sucking the puss out. This was one of the most interestingly amazing and compassionate scenes of the movie. The mesmerism continues in the connecting scene, when Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) gets the shower in braces and cleans himself followed by shaving and cutting his hair and finally Daniel Radcliffe himself is stunned to look at his own image in the mirror. The beauty of these two interconnected scenes, was once again noticed when Victor’s father (Charles Dance) arrived, scolded and slapped Victor which Igor silently watched and decided not to leave Victor in his insane adventure of reanimating the dead back to life to peruse his goals to achieve mastery over reincarnation. He comes into the living area where Victor was trying to overcome the unhappy visit of his father; Igor tries to compensate him by showing interest in Victor’s mad preparation to experiment over a dead body to bring it back to life. Max Landis has done his job in adaptation of the story this extent which mastered to inspire the audience to its fullest extreme.
Mary Shelley, a female writer in early 19th century, wrote a strange gothic novel Frankenstein; Marry who was wife to P.B. Shelley the renowned poet of Romantic age. The legend says that, Marry Wollstonecraft Shelley had Shelley’s heart inside of the draws of her writing table which remained there till her own demise and was buried with her inside of her grave. The question is why she kept the heart of the Shelley with her? Was Mary thinking of experimenting with the heart of Shelley? Something like she has made subject of her novel Frankenstein?
Pain is the absolute emotion gave birth to the insanity in the very core of Victor’s genius and transforms him into a rebel; society will never entertain to survive. Victor’s brother Henry met his demise and Victor could never forgot about him, he may have but it seems that Victor’s family members always accused him of the uncommitted crime which caused the psychological imbalance within Victor’s personality that lead him to became what he was not meant to be.
Preceded by the whiskey scene, Victor took his watch out and Igor asked him the worth of that, which was later reported to be priceless for it, belonged to his bother Henry who lost his life saving Victor’s. It was the pain and the guilt which pushed Victor to this extent of bringing Henry back from the dead. People have tried to do this always since from the first dawn of this very earth and have used several medium to achieve their goals. If Victor was a magician, would have tried necromancy. In the final scene Victor’s tragic words remained to be, “O! My brother Henry, forgive me, I have wronged you, for this is not life; this is not life; you are not live. Live, live, live. ” And this was the extent of the pain he suffered from. Finally Victor cries out loud “O my brother! Forgive me”, just before killing the monster; his own creation.
Pain! What is pain? Could anyone ever was able to define what pain actually is? And how many could bear its demonic effect but a few.
It appears that poetic justice falls in for the few in the movie as the Roderick had to lose one of his hands and later his case, for raiding Victor’s residence without the warrant. Later Roderick pursued after the scientist and lost his life. Most seemingly the Finnegan, the villainous character met his end. The question is why Victor was saved, even after playing with the rules of nature? The answer most probably is his pain.
Radcliffe and James had their moment to do justice to their characters, when in the last scene, Radcliffe asked James to stop the experiment as to continue experimenting in the insane direction would cause more and more and more pain but James refused. The height of the acting skills nailed inside of the hearts of the audience. There is pain in their (Radcliffe & James) eyes, in their faces and in their voices, has strongest of the tendency to harvest pain in the audience and so they made their mark though pain.
Frankenstein; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Prototype:
Marry Shelley originated this kind of fantasy where humans can bring the dead back to life and later this ideology continued to exist in one kind or another in the realm of literature and several genres of entertainment. The Bride, Terminator, genetically created copies of human beings (colognes) and in the most recent years it was Avatar. And there are so many other examples as well.
Igor represents an ordinary human being who is intelligent and wise, follows the path of God while Victor is the science. In his last letter, Victor tells Igor that he will continue working on his experiments and at this point Mary wanted world to know that the boundaries of the time no longer exist. Victor, when says that keep your eyes open and wait for what comes next as he will call upon Igor once again, here allegorically Victor asks human race that development in this field will show up. And these happen with gradual rapidity in the next two centuries when we see colognes and other types of human made human like creatures showing up.
Victor out of the pain tries to reconstruct the rules actually govern by God, however, Igor (Denial Redcliff) who is equally as genius as Victor, has his ties with religion which prevent him to unleash his supreme intellect unlike the former. There is a beautiful balance within the movie, of both the ideologies dealing with the progressive science and the blasphemy regarding violating the rules defined by God. On one hand there is Victor (James McAvoy) and Finnegan Weyland (Freddie Fox) and on the other the characters like Roderick Turpin (Andrew Scott) and Baren Frankenstein (Charles Dance) bringing the balance to the plot.
The dialogue between Victor and Roderick are the most significant of all regarding this conflict which continues till the climax of the movie.
During the discussion, “Rational free thinking man”, is what Victor calls himself and continues to say that, “God has no authority here.”
“Here”, this word in debatable. Was he spoken of his premises or his experiments? If both who had the authority there?
One thinks that he is working for the development of human beings by getting command over life/death and the others may think it be the most dreadful sin ever occurred. Victor is a modernist for whom law of God is fiction when spoke with Roderick and called his faith to be the primitive believe system which stands in his way to achieve that he wants to. Victor was so blind in his adventure that later he could prove himself to destroy anything that stands in his way hindering to accomplish his task. He sarcastically calls the inspector orthologian which is very ironic. Victor believes that life is the result of applied chemistry, forgetting that like all His creations chemistry itself is a branch of knowledge, created by God. Anything, including life, death, applied chemistry, human beings, which has been created, is mortal; for which is created and be uncreated except for God Himself.
Victor called that beast, the chimpanzee, to be his creation. Later he is so blind to call that ill-fated monster his creation and forgot what creation means in actual when it comes to the creations of the Almighty God.
On the other hand inspector Roderick appears to be a strong believer, advices Victor as, “Be careful Mr. Frankenstein! You toy with raffle forces, and there is no mercy in nature. ” The inspector knew that Victor insulted him and he was clever but he did not possess any of the evidence and yet he believes that what foul was occurring to happen it was his moral duty to stop it. Here Roderick leaves the bounds of all the other societal and his professional restrictions and merge as the religious believer who meets a tragic end in the last scene.
Igor Decides to deviate and to make a Stand:
Igor tries to deviate from Victor after the dreadful experiment on chimpanzee and realizing that Victor would expand the range of his experiment by bringing human corpse in the lab. He spoke with Lorelei, who asked him to make a stand. Igor practices his speech to let go of being part in blasphemy Victor was committing against God. The words are heart touching and are as follows, “and If You Truly Respect Me as a Scientist: If you truly respect me as your friend, you must listen to my concerns.”
Though, Igor could never utter a single word of this speech in front of Victor due to his Father arrival and an unhappy visit followed by whiskey scene.
The Whiskey Scene:
“You know you are brilliant, don’t you!” said Victor to Igor. And after a little discussion on the experiment Igor suggests, “Whisky?” and Victor replies, “Yes! Do that.”
The most synchronized activity that could be done by the two of the genius of all times can be seen in this scene.
The laughter, and the word two hearts has its very own significance in the scene as there were two of the hearts, one of Victors and one of Igor thumping together and two sets of the brains working together to make the impossible, possible and to create their very own model of Prometheus, followed by the turning point of the movie is when all the three major characters are in three different places and it has been very beautifully set forth in the scene sequencing of the movie. Victor is working in the lab, Igor is in the Ball and Roderick was speculating in his office to raid Victor’s facility.
In That Case, In That Case, Yes!:
When Victor reveals his intentions of making the man, Igor cuts him in the middle by saying that it was Victor himself who disgusted experimenting on human’s organs to make a man alive. Igor never knew that it was Victor’s intentions since from the beginning and the failed experiment on beast provided synergy to what hibernated inside of his mind. Victor believed that his professors are of limited ability and of more limited horizon. For him the horizons are limitless and abilities are boundless. Of course, Victor since from the beginning wanted to experiment on man as he kept preserved the body of his roommate Igor. We can understand very easily that his roommate would have gone annoyed by finding Victor’s blasphemy; he was over dosed by Victor, to be silent forever. The revelation of Igor’s dead frozen body in the movie has its very own stunning effect. The suspense that struck the audience is awesome.
Encounter scene and they Leave London:
Victor reveals that he has no fear of death while Roderick replied that he lost his wife and believes that she lives in the eyes of God and he will be reunited with her one day and Victor calls his believes to be no more than fiction. Flee to Finnegan and there Igor decides to leave Victor and his never ending adventures. This is where Finnegan’s most cruel, villainous and corporate face is revealed when he tries to murder Igor and have intentions of killing Victor, if his experiment meets the success.
Igor comes back to Victor for he realizes the pain Victor suffers from and he wants to Victor to cease his experiment, though the later did not gave ear to Igor’s advice. This doesn’t lesser their love for another at all. Igor always stood by Victor’s side when he needed him and Victor lets Igor go free for Igor wanted it to be like that. Both the actors, Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy have wonderfully done justice to their characters.
Playing More than God:
Victor wants to play God as his ambitions are so high but he speaks of his experiments as his creations. He is so blind that he in the end calls Igor his creation as well though he only became a reason for him to get rid of the hunch and to stand erect. Rest of what Igor had was a gifted intellect from God which Victor must not have claimed to be his creation but blinded by his ego and passion he did. Victor believed that God sent humans as weak, fragile and imperfect that is destined to die and this is what he wanted to change. He not only wanted to play God but he wanted to play more than God. The vision and ideology of the Age, When Mary Shelly live, broke the chains of the time and emerging more strongly than ever today, has been very vividly depicted here.
The Actors Performance:
The magnificent performance, of the actors as a whole, has made the movie the master piece. The have worked really very hard to achieve the best they could, in performing these roles of Victor and Igor. In the opening scene when Daniel Radcliffe as hunchback clown who could only crawl, humiliated and draw human anatomy, steps in the screen, mesmerizes the audience. However, soon after that, his magnificent performance was over shadowed by the stunning acting skills of James McAvoy. This cannot be neglected though that they have made a wonderful pair of villainous-hero, though in many of the scenes we find Daniel quiet very silent and it is James who wins the performance by his verbose speeches and indifferent smile. In many of the places both the actors seemed complimentary to each other. Both the actors are multitalented and appear in variety of character and yet have proven themselves till now. James struck the eyes in Chronicles of Narnia, Wanted and above all in X-Men series as the younger self of Charles. On the other hand Daniel Radcliff is not behind in selecting the versatile characters that can take him a step further from his Harry potter image. This was when they both have proven themselves, especially when they stood shoulder to shoulder to one another in Victor Frankenstein. It will be eagerly expected if they appear in another movie, acting side by side, with one another once again.
The sets and the scene setting of the 19th century London is exclusive and breath taking. The circus, the hospital, the university, the demonstration hall, the ball, Victor’s residence, laboratory, attires, and above all the roads have their mark. In the last scene the whole fire disaster seemed a bit unnecessary, though it created some melodrama and the effect best suited to the taste of audience of a specific taste. The forces of nature are against them, God is against them, law and religion is against them. Moreover, this fire may be the fury of the Lord to signify His anger as the religious would call it to be and may be this was God’s wrath. How rude and how proud these humans were trying to use the lightning and thunder storm, as a vital tool to bring life to their monster which later turned to take their lives. The man standing next to Finnegan cried, “Sir! I must warn you, that we are over loading.” Of course they were overloading with an unholy creation but the warning came too very late and God’s anger swallowed the whole experiment.
Visual effects of the movie are quiet outstandingly priceless. Last but not the least the music is very beautifully embedded thought out the whole movie; Hats-off to the musician, Craig Armstrong.
Another mistake that could be avoided was there no dead bodies were shown in the last scene except for the body of Prometheus, as there died too many of the people.
This subject has been adapted by the cinema several times over the last few decades. I must say this is the most brilliant adaptation this time by young Max Landis and directed by Paul McGuigan, though it did not work on box office. 40 million dollars budget falls to 34.2 million on box office but it cannot lesser the brilliance of the picture. The Victor’s letter to Igor in the end indicated that there could be a sequel but alas the film did not work on box office.
Reviewed by Najia Almas (PhD Scholar) and Dr. Nausheen Zaheer