Why is the 1994 film version of Frankenstein so different from Shelley's novel Frankenstein?Frankenstein's life involves Elizabeth a lot more in the film, and he brings her back to life at the end.

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kenneth Branagh's 1994 filmatic adaptation of Mary Shelley's Romantic novel Frankenstein contains many elements not seen in the original novel. While both the novel and the film open in similar ways (with Walton's expedition and the coming of Victor), the movie does tend to allot the women of the film more power than the novel does.

For example, Victor's reaction to his mother's death is far more emotionally harrowing in the movie than the text. Shelley's "version" shows Elizabeth to be far more affected by Caroline's death than Victor. Victor's obsession with the women in his life is far more evident in the film.

Victor's obsession in the novel is the reanimation of life and the destruction of the monster--far different from the film. Instead of the lightning triggering Victor's interest in reanimation and science, his mother's death exists as the trigger. Following his victory at creating life, Victor feels that anyone around him who dies (and he cares about) needs to be brought back--shown by his bringing back of Elizabeth in Branagh's version.

That said, not many filmmakers create exact replications of the novels they chose to rewrite for film. Many reasons explain the existence of the differences between an original text and an adaptation.

First, some novels are too long for filmmakers to produce in completion. Given limitations regarding budget and time frames, some aspects of the original text must be omitted.

Second, many people are involved in making a film. A director must choose the right people to cast, the correct costuming, and the appropriate setting. With so many things to create visually, some things may be left out of the adaptation based upon preferences of those involved in the project.

Lastly, when creating a filmatic adaptation of an original, the writer/producer in charge focuses upon the things they wish to bring to the forefront of the film. Essentially, this is much like many people reading the same work will come to the conclusion about the different levels of importance regarding different parts of the text.

Branagh seems to wish to highlight the relationship between Elizabeth and Victor far more than Victor and his creature. Given that love has always been a theme important to moviegoers, Branagh brought the love between Victor and Elizabeth to the front of the novel (instead of leaving it hidden as Shelley did).

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Not only does Victor bring Elizabeth back to life after she's died in the film, but then she—after recognizing the monster she has become—self-immolates and dies in a really dramatic and tragic way, right before Victor's eyes. I think filmmakers could have done this for a number of reasons:

First, it adds to the drama. So much of the drama of the original text happens internally, for both Victor and the creature, and in a movie we need to be able to see big events to keep us interested. It can't all be characters sitting and brooding, or talking to one another or themselves.  

Second, watching Victor come to his decision to reanimate Elizabeth and then begin work on this project shows us just how bad a decision-maker he is. Again, since much of his "work" happens internally, in his mind, it might be harder for a film audience to grasp this. Moreover, it confirms his incredible selfishness: he doesn't think ahead about whether or not Elizabeth would want to be brought back to life as herself, let alone as something not quite herself, something made of her and yet not really her anymore. Victor thought only of his own desire and exercised no forethought when it came to creating his original being, and it's the same thing all over again. Victor does not learn from his mistakes, and this key difference between the text and movie helps to illuminate this crucial point for audiences.

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Frankenstein

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