February 21, 2011
#5—Frankenstein & Friends

No blog last week and a short one today. Sculpting and casting continues, now finishing the fifth and sixth heads for Victor Frankenstein—two as full-sized figures, two as little finger puppets, two as mid-sized table-top dolls—but we’ve been moderately overwhelmed with work on our forthcoming memoir. And I spent two days in San Francisco offering feedback for Kevin Augustine’s Hobo Grunt Cycle, which opened last Friday.

But during these two weeks, I’ve seen several films that registered strongly on me as related to this play. Man Bites Dog is a deeply disturbing French film, in the style of a documentary, about a contract killer and sociopath whose life is being documented by a young quartet of independent filmmakers. As he continues, the crew’s aesthetic distance is compromised more and more, and they finally become his accomplices. An absurd premise, and often intentionally as farcical as it is hideously violent. Triumph of the Will is Leni Riefenstal’s documentary of Hitler’s 1934 party rally in Nuremberg, acknowledged to be one of the great achievements in film history and probably the most forceful expression of power ever filmed.


What has this to do with Frankenstein? For me, both of these “heroes” have an obsession very close to that of Victor. They seek a world subject totally to their will. Their gestures never betray a hint of uncertainty or weakness. Women are irrelevant objects—for the sociopath creatures to mock and rape; for Riefenstal’s lens, their rapt adulation, their cheers, and their Nazi salutes offer soft, humane contrast to the hundreds of thousands of marching males. Their moral sense is entirely subsumed by their will.

We need to understand Victor’s desire to create life, to conquer the cycle of birth and death, as being of equal intensity. Of course he burns out much faster, renouncing it all the moment he sees the living Creature. And then, like Bruno Ganz’ portrayal of Hitler’s last days in his bunker in the film Downfall, Victor has only desperate spasms of will. Possibly our text doesn’t give enough weight to Victor’s struggle before the Creature’s animation—we’ll look at that.

But I think I can build a physicality in Victor’s gestural action based on Hitler’s. We’re accustomed to satiric portraits of Hitler’s oratory, but in fact every gesture captured by Riefenstal is specific, powerful, essential, and as powerful as his verbiage. It’s not the extravagance; it’s the absolute certainty.

Enough for now. Next week, more of our storyboard.