Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Nick Dear
Based on: Mary Shelley‘s novel
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonny Lee Miller, Ella Smith, Karl Johnson, Naomie Harris
[I saw the version with Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor Frankenstein and Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature way back when. This time I saw the vice versa version.]
Victor Frankenstein (Jonny Lee Miller) experimented around and managed to create a man (Benedict Cumberbatch). Horrified by what he’s done, he leaves the Creature to his own devices. As he stumbles through the world, utterly forsaken, the Creature tries to find his place in the world, a place that is inexorably connected to the man who created him.
It was fascinating to see both versions of the play – and to notice the way my perception shifted just by switching the roles and even though everything else stayed the same. But seeing the play for a second time also made its faults much clearer to me – and that is especially the way it treats its women.
Even before I saw the play for the first time, I always thought that I would like Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature better than Benedict Cumberbatch. What did surprise me, though, was that I also liked Miller better as Frankenstein. I guess, my ideal version of this would be Miller and Miller.
With the creature Miller’s physical approach worked better for me – it feels like he’s at home in his body and even when the creature has trouble controling his body in the beginning, there’s a joy there that was plain lacking in Cumberbatch. With Cumberbatch he already feels a little awkward and his creature’s struggles in the beginning prompted the audience to laugh (at and not with him). This set the entire tone of the play, and it set it wrongly, in my opinion.
With Frankenstein himself, Cumberbatch’s Frankenstein was an aloof asshole who treated Elizabeth like shit. Miller’s Frankenstein was an aloof asshole who treated Elizabeth like shit but with charm. With Cumberbatch I got the feeling that Frankenstein never stopped to think about how his actions affected the people around him, with Miller I got the feeling that he tried but was unable to really empathize with others. It’s a small distinction, but one that I appreciated a lot.
But what really stood out to me on watching the film for a second time was the abysmal way the women are treated in it. There aren’t very many (but there are more than you’d expect in a cast that size) but they’re all pawns, extensions of the men around them and their struggles. [With the exception of Ella Smith, who gets to play a double role: a sex worker and a house servant. Yay.] It’s frustrating to say the least. And of course, the rape scene didn’t get any better either.
Nevertheless it’s certainly an interesting production with a great design that is worth engaging with.