Bride of Frankenstein

On January 20th, the Rotterdam Philharmonic conducted by Richard Kaufman accompanied a screening of The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935) with a live performance of the film score. The venue was the main auditorium (capacity, 2230) at De Doelen. The film was projected on a huge screen suspended high over the orchestra and clearly visible even from the next to last row where we were seated. (Intrigued by the idea, but uncertain of its worth, I had chosen to pay the lowest ticket price available.)

The film was a surprise. I had never seen it before, yet it was entirely familiar with iconic images that have traveled far beyond the film itself in the 75 plus years since it was made. The over-the-top camp acting with little sly jokes was hugely enjoyable. The vulnerability of the monster, his search for acceptance and friendship, the violent and cruel rejection by everyone he encounters with the exception of the blind hermit; the film engages on an emotional level I never expected.

This is a 10 minute clip starting in the hermit’s cottage where the monster is learning to appreciate the good things in life before the cruel world interrupts the domestic scene. The clip ends with the proposal to create the Bride.

For an interesting (and maybe, a little stretched?) discussion of the homosexual themes in the film, check the Bright Lights Film Journal. Of course, I knew James Whale was gay (Gods and Monsters, 1998), and the film is certainly camp, but I’m not that clever at reading subtexts of cinema so I found this treatment of the film fascinating.

Must also mention the delicious performance by Elsa Lanchester as both the deceptively sweet Mary Shelley and the traumatized Bride. Her screen time is short but the impression is lasting.

And the music? Well, after a while I forgot that the music was played live by the orchestra. I was very much engaged in the story and the music felt incidental, even a little out of step with the film at times. Even more out of step with the film were the middle-aged “lads” seated behind us, who obviously had not taken in the fact that they were not in their own living rooms and made quite free with the talking.

De Doelen is planning more events like this one, next up being a screening of The Lord of the Rings in June. But I think I’ll wait for Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Now, there’s something to look forward to!

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2 thoughts on “Bride of Frankenstein

  1. I was going to watch it, but then thought that I would be too upset seeing the monster being treated so badly and cruelly. Tell me it doesn’t all end in tears!

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  2. It does all end in tears, and it’s really heart-breaking. In a final gesture of mercy, the monster lets his creator Dr. Frankenstein and his new wife live, but everyone else dies.

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