Comparing The Creation Scene In James Whale's 1931 Frankenstein And Kenneth Brannagh's 1994 Frankenstein

5257 words - 21 pages

Comparing 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
with rain and lightning, and the sound of rain and thunder are used
instead of music to give it an extra fear factor. This is a very
traditional horror opening and Whale probably chose it to create a
sense of fear and anticipation in the audience, as it is likely they
have not seen many horror films and so will not have associated it
with the ‘spoof’ films that we have adapted it to nowadays. The fact
that it is pitch black and there is quite clearly a large storm taking
place could be pathetic fallacy for the storm brewing in the
laboratory, reflecting Frankenstein’s mind, and showing Frankenstein’s
progression into paranoia regarding his experiment.

In comparison, in Kenneth Brannagh uses a more contemporary opening
scene, with a candle creating flickering shadows on a red wall. This

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