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Comparison Of The Gothic Genre In "Saw", "Frankenstein" And Its 1931 Filmic Adaptation

2260 words - 10 pages

Gothic Horror is successful in its adaptive form as its relationship with the universal themes of the human psyche; the ‘suffering’ antagonist whom the reader can sympathise with, and a strong moral message have proven to be relevant through their appropriation reflecting society’s ever changing fears and values. Frankenstein by Shelley, its 1931filmic appropriation by James Whale, and the contemporary subversion of Gothic Horror SAW, directed by James Wan, altogether spanning over 200 years have been able to maintain this genre’s popularity through their composition which responds to the audience’s cultural context. Through filmic and literary devices, the ...view middle of the document...

This period encouraged man’s inquisitiveness and scientific progress has Shelley warn of the dangers of committing oneself to these pursuits as Victor had, with his obsession diminishing his morals and rationale.Unlike Shelley who presents Victor as retaining a shred of moral fibre in his immediate horror after creating the creature, Whale depicts Henri embodying the extreme of mental instability, of derangement and irrationality. This is evident in his exultation, ‘Now I know what it feels like to be God!’ exemplified by a medium shot of him visibly restrained by Victor and Doctor Waldman. The well dressed Doctor, who warns, ‘Your health will be affected if you persist in this madness’, to which the ragged Henri replies, ‘I’m astonishingly sane Doctor’, has Whale emphasise the duality of madness and sanity symbolized through these two polar opposites. The setting of the castle highlights Henri’s isolation from society with only his sidekick Fritz, who sustains the audience’s predisposition as being spiritually ‘ugly’ reflected with his physical deformity. Whale employs chiaroscuro to underline their moral transgressions, where in the darkened graveyard and gallows, one observes the pair whose white skin is juxtaposed to their blackened eyes lit with fervor, conveying a sense of illegitimacy in their presence. Whale has made a clear distinction with the moral absolute embodied by Henri through his complete breakdown of rationale, reinforcing Hollywood’s rigid ‘cookie-cutter’ values catering to a mass audience. Such black and white values contrast to Frankenstein, where ‘evil’ and ‘madness’ are natural entities, but results of moral and scientific transgression characterized by the Industrial Revolution.Despite a modern, desensitized audience, Wan is able to rekindle the macabre of Gothic seen in the mental implosion the main characters, Gordon and Faulkner in his film, SAW. Both are isolated in a dingy bathroom, following the convention of physical entrapment, and like the Monster in Whale’s film, they too are chained, creating a sense of helplessness and submission at the mercy of their cruel master. Like Whale’s text, Gordon and Faulkner are polar opposites, with Gordon the calm and rational ‘Doctor’ and Faulkner the mentally unstable ‘Henri’, with their friction and hostility symbolic of the conflict between these two psyches when placed in such a situation. Wan’s portrayal of the human psyche has both protagonists withhold information and secrets from each other, but constantly maintain that they are righteous and pure and that the other is lying, symbolic of society unwilling to blame itself for its own breakdown. Through their loss of rationality, elevated through a claustrophobic setting and the Hollywood convention of the ‘family held in hostage’, Wan appeals to contemporary society’s fear of...

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