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There is no wonder that there were several attempts to reconsider Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein in the twentieth century. In fact, the epoch of industrialization and dehumanization made the book’s dilemma as relevant as never before. The earliest screen version based on the plot is the film of Thomas Edison’s studio produced in 1910. While not being a copy of the book, it addresses the same dilemma between following the laws of Nature and trying to create new ones by means of technology. Although the twentieth century had a suggestion of technology’s victory, the creators of the film believe that people should cling to natural laws in order to preserve their moral values.
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Monstrosity as a trait of the contemporary humanity is an idea that the film suggests by telling a story of alchemic creation of an artificial person. Just like the book, it can be classified as a Gothic one in its genre because of its appeal to the supernatural and the horror. As it is widely known, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein can be more generally referred to as Romantic book. It contains such traits of Romanticism as interest to inner life of charcters as opposed to external events, and focus on Nature as a divine force that is able to relieve and heal human emotions and sorrows. Besides, a human being can be harmonious only as part of Nature, while any vanity or rebellion is able to cause tragedy.
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In this context, the film Frankenstein repeats Shelly’s concern about human choices and challenges, but makes it in even a more symbolic way. While the book is an epistolary novel, that is the one that is written in the form of letters from several characters, the film made in 1910 is a silent one, which means that it had to rely on visual symbolism mostly. A good example of this kind of symbolism is the director’s use of a mirror to symbolize the change that takes place in Frankenstein’s soul. This idea is common for Romanticism, where Doppelganger ( the second self) concept was used. In this context, the monster is not so much a child of Frankenstein, as it was in the novel, but it is his alter ago, a darker part of his soul. The same approach was used by Oscar Wilde when creating a connection between Dorian and his picture. In the same way, Frankenstein sees how his inner world acquired monstrosity after his controversiaal experiments. He realizes that desire to be equal to God and to conquer Nature leads to moral corruption.
So, the creators of the film place the whole of responsibility for creating monster on Frankenstein. They reveal an idea that the monster is just an outcome of sick imagination and the blind vanity that the man has. However, it is remarkable that the film gives the humanity a chance to change, to repent and to get back to Nature again. When Frankenstein admits his wrongness, he is given a chance to change and the monster disappears, so he is able to see his own face in the mirror again. Background music for a silent film is another way to create an atmosphere of suspense, an attribute of gothic art.
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In conclusion, it is worth saying that the film uses the most general idea of Mary Shelly’s book about the clash between nature and technology. As the film was created at the beginning of the twentieth century, its authors’ concerns about the issue were not ungrounded. The film focuses on the link between following the laws of nature and moral integrity of humans, and gives humanity a chance to choose the right path after making a mistake.
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