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The novel Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelley and released in 1818. In 1994, Kenneth Branagh based a movie of the same name on Mary Shelley's novel. A movie based on a true tale, a work of fiction, or even a biography is typically expected to animate the characters with a striking resemblance to the plot and themes. However, as movies are works of art, the authors and directors have the chance to showcase their originality. Given that they both tell the same tale and share the same characters and plot, Frankenstein the novel and the movie inevitably share parallels. Despite their similarities in plot, there are distinctive differences between Shelley’s novel and Branagh’s film in telling the story, showing that they are distinct pieces of art. This article analyses the major differences between the two works of art.
Differences between the Novel and the Film
A significant difference is exhibited in the way Victor Frankenstein, the main character, stumbles upon the secret to creating life. He had the idea and intended to work on it to its success. In the film, He narrates to Robert Walton that, after meeting his professor, Walderman, he seeks for help in creating life. However, the professor does not like the idea and utterly discourages him from proceeding in such a quest. However, he dies, and Victor continues in his goal against advice. He uses a giant laboratory that is well equipped in the movie to create an animated being, using his professor’s knowledge obtained from his research. This story is different from the novel. Elizabeth’s account of the story is that Frankenstein became curious about creating human life. However, he does not consult with anyone on this subject, but rather proceeds with his experiments and succeeds through his studies and efforts. While the Branagh’s film shows that Victor used professor Waldman’s brain and body parts of criminals in his work, Shelley’s novel has no indication of whether he used human body parts or how he might have obtained them. This difference is significant and distinguishes the novel and the movie.
The novel and the film differ in how the family members of Victor Frankenstein die. According to the film, his mother dies while giving birth to William, his younger sibling. Out of grief, his mother’s death causes him to move to Ingolstadt from Geneva, his home. It also gives him the determination to find a way to overcome life through its creation so that he can resurrect people. Therefore, it is clear that his goal at school was to learn how to create life. However, Shelley’s novel also differs on this account. Victor’s mother dies from Scarlet fever, which she had contracted from Elizabeth after she had been adopted into the family. Her death only causes him to immerse himself into research work as a way to deflect the grief of the loss, but does not directly give him the motive to create life. Instead, his own curiosity leads him to the creation of the monster. The book and novel share the similarity in Elizabeth’s cause of death, having been caused by the monster. They both have a similar answer as to why she died. However, they differ on how her death came. The novel’s narration recounts that Elizabeth was strangled to death by the monster creation of Frankenstein. On the other hand, the film shows that this monster ripped her heart out, thus causing her death. After her death, the film indicates that Frankenstein tries to reanimate Elizabeth but upon her resurrection and finding that she had Justin’s body through a mirror reflection, she sets herself on fire and burns along with their house in which she dies for the second time. However, the novel has no such account. In fact, Frankenstein, too terrified by whatever he had created, does not attempt to bring Elizabeth back to life, as per the book’s account.
The book and the film also differ in how Victor Frankenstein met with his friend Henry Clerval. According to the novel, Victor and Henry had been childhood friends. Frankenstein goes to University at Ingolstadt, Germany alone but Clerval joins him after several to find that the former had changed significantly in the way he viewed the world and life. This shows that the two were a significant part of each other’s life, having been friends for their lifetime. On the other hand, the film shows that the two friends meet at the Ingolstadt campus where their friendship begins. It is a significant difference as it shows that there was no relationship between Victor and Henry, and therefore the latter may not be able to tell the difference between young Frankenstein and the one he saw at the University.
There is a difference in how Victor responds to the monster’s demands. The latter wants Victor to create a companion of his own form and kind so that he could leave mankind alone. The novel states that Victor heeds to this request. However, out of disgust at the ugliness of the creature he had made earlier, he destroys everything that may have been used to bring the supposed bride to the monster to life. This action is responsible for the monster’s termination of Elizabeth’s life, as revenge against its creator for failing to create a companion for him and leaving it to languish in loneliness and hate from human beings, including himself. The film, on the other hand, shows that the request by the monster that Frankenstein create a companion for him comes with specific demands that he uses Justin’s body. When Victor declines, the monster tries to cox him into creating a new being by predicting that he would try to resuscitate Elizabeth. Therefore, it kills her by ripping her heart out. When her body becomes useless, Frankenstein takes her head and joins it with Justin’s body, after which she regains life. The monster is convinced that this new being, having come out of creation from different body parts of people, was like him and tries to possess her by force. This war between the monster and Victor for her possession causes Elizabeth to set herself on fire while in the house and dies.
Similarities between the Novel and the Film
The film and the novel begin their plot with Robert Walton travelling to the North Pole, when he meets Victor Frankenstein. The narration about Frankenstein’s life and the events that led to his quest to kill the monster begin after their meeting. Also, the story about his childhood, with the exception of Frankenstein’s friend, Henry, is similar. They show that he spent his childhood in Geneva, after which he leaves for Ingolstadt.
Frankenstein’s arrival at the idea to create life are brought around by the same event, which is his mother’s death. Despite the difference in the way they tell the story, the novel and the film link the immersion of Frankenstein into his research work to the grief he felt after his mother’s death and was trying to overcome.
The monster’s actions are depicted in similarity, in both the novel and the film. These are shown when it attacks the family of Frankenstein in a bid to get his attention. It begs Frankenstein to create another being that will serve as its companion as human beings had rejected its association. When Victor declines to this request, the monster kills Elizabeth as a form of revenge in order to show his creator how it felt to live without a companion, considering the fact that Frankenstein did not have any other friends apart from Henry and his wife Elizabeth.
The discussion presented above shows that there are many differences between the film by Branagh and the novel by Shelley, despite the movie being based on the plot from the novel. It is natural that there are bound to be similarities, which are also included in the discussion above. Considering the fact that numerous differences have been presented, it shows that Branagh modified Shelley’s original story to recreate a new story from it. Therefore, the two are distinct works of art that simply tell a similar story, rather than one being based on the other.
Frankenstein. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Kenneth Branagh, Robert De Niro and Helena Bonham Carter. 1994. Film.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Bibliolis Books, 2010.
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