I had not watched this particular film until recently.  I've been looking at Mary Shelley's book as part of my coursework and have been fascinated by the comparisons between the book and Shelley's own life.  The story of Frankenstein evolved from a bet between her, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron to come up with a scary story.  If reports are accurate, Byron was so terrified by Shelley's tale that he ran screaming from the room.  The book itself is written in a flowing style, making it easy to read.  The elements of birth and death are prevalent through the story, which no doubt stems from Shelley's unfortunate loss of her first child before the book's contents were even conceived. 

There are some differences between the book and the film, for example, in the film, Victor's mother dies during the birth of his younger brother William, whereas in the book, she dies as a result of contracting scarlet fever from her adopted daughter, Elizabeth.  In the book, Victor destroys the female creation he sets about making as a companion for his monster, whereas in the film, he does not even countenance creating another creature.  The one thing that comes across in the book is Victor's vanity; he is the talk of his tutors and class mates and he is extremely proud of this notoriety; however, his motivations in the film seem to stem from his mother's horrific death.

In the film, Kenneth Branagh takes the title role of Victor Frankenstein, a man traumatised as a result of his mother’s tragic death during the birth of his younger sibling, William.  Helena Bonham Carter capably portrays the role of Victor’s adopted sister, Elizabeth; dark movies are very much her forte.  Robert De Niro excels in epitomizing the character of Frankenstein’s creation.  My favourite character was that of Monsieur Waldon, played by the inimitable John Cleese, however this brilliant comedic actor is sadly cast in a role without much longevity or brevity.

Victor Frankenstein’s sole obsession in this sci-fi/horror is to cheat death.  Frankenstein has been coddled and spoiled his entire life and no-one has ever really told him, “No!”  He ponders long and hard over the possibility of creating a new life, usurping the role of God, but fails to consider the far-reaching consequences of such an action.  He refuses to listen to the counsel of those around him, with catastrophic results for his entire family.  After his new creation is born, Victor is repulsed by its ugliness and shuns its existence, abandoning the creature to its fate.

The costumes are beautiful in this film and typical of the period.  Carter wears a stunning array of gowns while some of Branagh’s choices are suitably grotesque.

This film is bleak, some of the events are harrowing and the chilling tag line on the front of the DVD cover reads a stark caution, “Be Warned”; however, whether this is a caution against hubris or having the temerity to usurp God is unclear. 

Frankenstein’s story is a tragic one.  His aims are originally set in motion to help humanity, but his selfishness and arrogance ultimately lead to his downfall.  The monster is played very sympathetically by De Niro and one must question whether or not Victor’s creation might have turned out differently had he been ‘born’ into a more nurturing environment.

The traditional Gothic elements were in abundance throughout the film; barren landscapes, castles, graveyards, charnel-houses, inclement weather, secret hidden knowledge…  In all I was very impressed by this movie and would highly recommend it to anyone.