Monday, 20 May 2013

The Frankenstein Theory - Movie Review

As someone who takes an almost perverse pride in plumbing the depths of horror-related obscurity I am ashamed to admit that this one flew completely under my radar. But someone lent it to me on Friday and I thought it was awesome. You should go and watch it.

First, a little background (I would say spoilers, but the book was published in 1817). The novel, Frankenstein is about a young medical student creating a new man (the method is never made clear) and then abandoning said man when it is monstrously ugly. Apart from these physical, er, limitations, the creature is an intelligent, reasonable being who ends up with severe parental abandonment issues, goes on a roaring rampage of revenge and the book ends with a half-mad-with-grief Victor Frankenstein pursuing his creation to the Arctic in order to finally kill it. The framing device is the letters of the captain of an arctic exploration vessel that finds Victor mid hunt and doesn't exactly believe him until he sees the monster himself. Victor dies, his quest unfulfilled. The monster grieves over his 'father's' body, saying:
I shall die. I shall no longer feel the agonies which now consume me or be the prey of feelings unsatisfied, yet unquenched. He is dead who called me into being; and when I shall be no more, the very remembrance of us both will speedily vanish. I shall no longer see the sun or stars or feel the winds play on my cheeks.
This is where this is happening. It's pretty grim.

It's one of my favourite books, and possibly the greatest gothic "places where science dares not tread" book ever written. Certainly the most famous. So why do I re-hash all of this? Because The Frankenstein Theory, set in the modern day, posits the idea that Frankenstein was a work of non-fiction disguised as fiction and that somewhere in the arctic wilderness, the monster lives.

Yeah, yeah, I know, the premise is faintly ridiculous, but the film follows through with it to such a degree and treats it with such seriousness that by the time the documentary crew reaches the icy wastes of North Canada you're pretty much sold. The method by which the location of the monster is estimated (a combination of migratory patterns and unexplained murder reports) is a work of creative genius. 

This is a 'found-footage' film a-la Cloverfield and normally I don't get on with them (they make me feel ill) but this is probably the best I've seen. There's really only five characters, Professor Venkenheim, the man who believes his Great-great etc. Grandfather conducted the original experiment, Vicky, the director/presenter of the documentary they're filming about the hunt, the camera guy and sound guy, and Carl, the Canadian guide who is probably the most memorable. Venkenheim is the most interesting, however, in a role mirroring that of Victor's in the novel - obsessional to the point of endangering those around him. This is evident in an early scene when he pushes a potential eye-witness too far and has terrible consequences later on. The rest are a likable bunch, but meat on the hoof to a man (or woman). The 'found-footage' concept alone doesn't exactly bode well for a happy ending. 

Carl also endears me by riffing on that famous scene in Jaws where Quint tells the story of the Indianopolis except with a polar bear rather than sharks. It's pretty creepy.

Carl, single-handedly making the Northwest territories cool
It's also very pretty to look at. The wilderness as presented is a harsh yet beautiful place, a place that could easily kill you even without anything else. There's a fun theme throughout of the encroachment - and de-civilizing effect - of the wilderness, with a hunter's yurt literally and symbolically becoming an increasingly flimsy refuge. 

Any faults? Other reviews have called it slow, and it's true that it takes a long while to get where it's going, but for me that allowed me more time to buy into the concept. It also ends rather...suddenly. But still a heavy recommendation from me.

One more question I bet you're asking. Do they find what they're looking for? Well, that would be telling, but let's just say that the theme of de-civilization is taken to it's logical extreme. 


No comments:

Post a Comment