Theater of Cruelty

Revives life in Frankenstein

Frankenstein's monster goes like a living death through Tim Burton's 1982 film universe until Corpse Bride, which has its Norwegian premiere this week.


American Tim Burton is one of the most original directors in Hollywood, and he has put a personal touch on everything from Batman movieizations, animated feature films such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and his many Johnny Depp collaborations – from Edvard Scissors to Charlie og sjokoladefabrikken. In the background, Mary Shelley's classic horror novel often haunts Frankenstein, right up to the year Corpse Bride..

Burton himself claims that he is not particularly keen on either horror films or Mary Shelley's novel, but that it is the Gothic genre that fits well with stories and scenarios others would perceive as ordinary. Regardless, the Frankenstein story has its unmistakable touch on Burton's film universe for the past 23 years.

Frankenweenie (1982) is a 25 minute black and white movie Tim Burton made while working as an animator at Disney. Both in form and content, it has clear references to James Whale's films Frankenstein (1931) and The bride of frankenstein (1935). The film is about ten-year-old Victor Frankenstein (sic) who revives his pet – a bull terrier named Sparky, who has been hit and killed in a car accident – in the attic of the house where he lives with his parents. Consequently, Sparky is not as monstrous as Frankenstein's monster, but rather a reminder of why the novel's Victor Frankenstein embarked on his project of infusing lifeless bodies with life: these were thoughts he began to fable when his mother was abruptly torn away. For Frankenstein, creating artificial life is only a partial goal on the way to being able to revive those who are abruptly and meaninglessly torn away – just as Sparky is in Frankenweenie.

Edvard Scissors

Tim Burton thinks the idea himself Edvard Scissors (1990) has to do with his teenage experiences: “I simply felt that I could not communicate. It is the feeling that your image and how people perceive you are contrary to what you feel is inside you, which I believe is a widespread feeling. ”Frankenstein's monster feels, thinks and arranges as well as the people in the novel, but comes never in a position to show and be valued for these qualities: "Once, I mistakenly hoped to meet beings who would overlook my outward appearance and love me for the excellent qualities I was able to embody," sums up the monster.

Like the monster in Frankenstein Edvard wants to be accepted by the people, but the difference that one day makes him popular, the next day becomes the starting point for persecution and demonization. Edvard eventually returns to the castle where he came from, and lives alone – probably forever. The monster in Frankenstein also finally chooses loneliness: "I've found myself suffering from loneliness hereafter."

Batman Returns

With Batman Returns (1992) Burton introduced his versions of the cartoon characters Penguin (Danny DeVito) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), both of whom portray sides of Frankenstein's nameless monster. The penguin is a child of physically degenerate parents, but really flawed: He has lids instead of arms. He was therefore put out, in a basket on the river. Over the years, he has built himself up as a sewer's Nemo, and acquired an army of penguins. The penguin wants to find out who he is, while showing up for, and being accepted by, the city's citizens. In this, he faces greater problems than he thinks he deserves, and he therefore initiates a bitter revenge on all who condemn him for his appearance.

Similarly, don't know the monster in either Frankenstein who or what it is. It painstakingly collects information about the world, other people and their own person. The monster wants to get in touch with the people it wants to compare with, but because of its extreme appearance, people escape, or attack it without warning. This makes the monster declare war on all people, but first and foremost its creator: Victor Frankenstein. The most important common feature between the Penguins and Frankenstein's monster is the extreme appearance that means that no one will even consider listening to what they want to say and finding out what they feel. There are no cultural solutions to their physical problem.

Catwoman is created after Selina Kyle is pushed out of a window. The dead body is immediately revived by a flock of backyard cats: Like Frankenstein's monster, the dead body is revitalized with vitality. Catwoman is not composed by different parts, but this patchwork idea is reflected in how the just-revitalized cat woman frenetically sews a flattering and dangerous suit with asymmetrical, coarse seams as we know from Whale's Frankenstein films.

Common to both the Penguin and Catwoman vs. Batman, and the monster vs. Frankenstein, is a hazy borderline between heroes and villains. Everybody has sine problems and everyone is more or less in a moral gray zone. Burton constantly shows structural similarities between the Penguin / Catwoman and Batman, and allows the former characters to subtly remind Batman of this. IN Frankenstein the same thing happens in that Frankenstein in his frantic pursuit of the monster eventually becomes as desperate as it has been. And the monster moves in the opposite direction: with the help of its extreme speed and strength, and that it learns quickly, it gets in many ways the advantage over Frankenstein. At the beginning and end of the novel – in the ice near the North Pole – Frankenstein and the monster are almost fused by despair, exhaustion and desperation.

The corpse bride

Tim Burton's latest movie is this year Corpse Bride, an animated children's and adult musical in the same genre as The Nightmare Before Christmas. Many people think this movie has little to do with it Frankenstein to do, but then it's time to reread the novel:

Frankenstein's family is among the foremost in the Free State of Geneva. Victor Frankenstein's father married the daughter of his good friend the businessman Beaufort. Thus, a sensible marriage in relation to that monster sums up as "the qualities most valued among your fellow creatures are high and uncontaminated provenance combined with wealth". One day, Frankenstein's mother finds a beautiful girl, Elizabeth, a little younger than Victor, whom the family adopts. "From then on Elizabeth Lavenza became my playmate and, as we grew older, my friend. She was playful and balanced, just as happy and playful as an insect in the summer. ”

The mother's big project is for Victor and Elizabeth to marry, if that happens after she herself is dead. Victor constantly pretends to be enthusiastic about this plan, but entrusts Walton (and the readers): "I was bound by a solemn promise that I had not yet fulfilled, and which I did not dare to break; or, if I did, what variety of accidents would I not then trigger for myself and my devoted family! Can I go to my own wedding party while still having this heavy weight of death hanging around my neck? "

Corpse Bride begins with Victor (yes his name is!) releasing a butterfly out of a glass bell, and out into the open. Victor is the son of the Van Dort couple, who have made a name for themselves by running a fish shop. But especially Mrs. Van Dort, wants to elevate socially. The aristocratic couple Everglot have what Van Dort wants: titles and a daughter ready for marriage: Victoria – but no money! Victor and Victoria meet the day before the planned wedding. But while Victor is rehearsing the wedding ritual out in the woods, with the wedding ring resting on an old twig, he marries the ghost bride Emily (the twig was not a twig, but the remains of her hand). She takes him to the very colorful and loose world of the dead, but Victor tries (understandably) to get back to his (living) Victoria….

New life

Frankenstein has long since become a modern myth. There is little agreement on what it actually means and the, combined with all the romantic / modern themes it touches, makes it now a classic in both high and low culture: Artificial life, child rearing, gender roles, the longing for sympathy and equals, self-destructing women, beauty tyranny, extreme attempts to achieve fame , narcissism, birth trauma, the hatred and revenge of the oppressed towards their oppressors – everything is there. Ask a friend who has read Frankenstein what it is about, and I guarantee that they will connect it to something they themselves are very concerned about. So, too, with Tim Burton's films.

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