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BeyondAdaptation: Frankenstein’s Postmodern Progeny
Pedro Javier Pardo García
ThischapterexaminesKennethBranagh’s MaryShelley’sFranken- stein (1994)inordertodemonstratehow,despitethefilm’savowed claimtobefaithfultothebook,itdisplaysimportantdifferenceswith itwhicharerelatedtootherfilms,notonlypreviousadaptationsof Frankenstein ,butalsocontemporaryadaptationsofothertexts–– FrancisFordCoppola’s BramStoker’sDracula (1992)inparticular. AfterabriefoverviewoftheFrankensteincinematicmyth,thechapter focusesontheelementsapparentlyrestoredfromthebookbutinfact transformedafterCoppola’sexample,whichturnBranagh’sfilminto aromantic Frankenstein .Thenitmovesontooutrightadditions, elementswhichhavenothingtodowiththebookbutultimatelypoint tootherfilmversionsofthemyth,althoughreinterpretedandtrans- formedinordertoproduceapostmodern Frankenstein .Thefinal sectiondiscussestheimplicationsofthisparticularcaseforatheoryof filmadaptationandproposesaredefinitionofadaptationascultural intertextuality.
TheFrankenstein Myth
WhenMaryShelleyreferredto Frankenstein;or,theModern Prometheus (1818;1831)as‘myhideousprogeny’(Shelley1993: 197),shecouldnotbeawareofhowherstatementwouldbeprophetic ofthecinematicafterlifeofhermasterpiece.VictorFrankenstein’s fearsaboutaraceofmonsterspopulatingtheearthhavebecome realityinthelegionoffilmversionsofhismonsterhauntingthou- sandsofcinemasandintheimaginationsofmillionsofspectators. Fewbooksinworldliteraturehavebeensoconstantlyandintensely adapted to film, to such an extent that, as Paul O’Flinn has argued, this ceaselessreproductionhasalteredtheperceptionoftheliterarysource andengenderedamultiplicityof Frankensteins ,asmanyasfilm
224 Pedro Javier Pardo García adaptationshavebeenmade:‘Thefactthatmanypeoplecallthe monsterFrankensteinandthusconfusethepairbetraystheextentof thatrestructuring’(O’Flinn1995:22).Tobeexact,however,itisnot justtheliterarysourcethathasbeenceaselesslyreproduced:mostfilm versionsdonottakeMaryShelley’stextasapointofdeparture,but previousfilmversions.Infact,whatdifferentversionshavein commonisnotsomuchthebookasthemythcreatedbyitsdramatic andcinematicreproduction,totheextentthatthebookhasbecome onemoreversionofthatmyth—thefounding,butnotnecessarilythe mostinfluentialone.Themediationofmythinthetransferencefrom pagetoscreenmustbetakenintoaccountinanystudyofthefilm adaptationsof Frankenstein ,asthetitleofthischapteremphasises:it doesnotreferto Frankenstein ’s—thebook—butFrankenstein’s—the myth—progeny.ItstopicisthelatestadaptationbyKennethBranagh (1994),aparadigmaticexampleofthismediation:thefilmclaimsto restorethemythtoitsoriginalpurityfromthetitleitself— Mary Shelley’sFrankenstein —butinfactitadaptsthemythasmuchasthe book, and is ultimately one more version of the myth. ThestoryofthetransformationofMaryShelley’s Franken- stein intotheFrankensteinmythstartsveryearly,withitsfirstdrama- tisationbyRichardBrinsleyPeakein1823, Presumption;or,theFate ofFrankenstein . 1 Thisisthebeginningoftheprocessofomissionand simplificationcharacteristicofdramaandfilmadaptationsandwell summedupbyAlbertJ.Lavalleywhenhewritesthat‘weneversee Justine and the locket that betrayed her, we never meet Walton, and no onehaseverseentheMonsterread ParadiseLost orPlutarch’(1979: 246).Adaptations,however,alsoaddnewelementstothemyth:‘a creationscene,aweddingnightsceneoranabductionofthebride, andasceneoffierydestruction’(Lavalley1979:245-6).Theprocess 1 ThesuccessofPeake’sstageadaptationledtoMaryShelley’sfatherarrangingfora reprintofthenovel(1823);anewedition,revisedbyMaryShelley,waspublishedin 1831.TheOxfordUniversityPresseditionof1993publishesthe1818text,withan AppendixbyeditorMarilynButlerwhere,previoustothecollationofthe1818and 1831texts,thetypesofchangemadein1831aresummarised:thecharactersof WaltonandespeciallyFrankensteinaresoftenedandmademuchmoreadmirable, Frankenstein’sscientificeducationislargelyrewrittenandheisgivenanexplicitly religiousconsciousness,andthefamilyandtheirblood-tiesarerevised(e.g.Elizabeth isnolongerFrankenstein’scousinbutastranger).Shelley’s1831revisionmightbe seenaspartoftheveryprocessofrewriting/adaptationoftheFrankensteinmyth explored in this essay.