Gods And Monsters

Gods and Monsters, being the first movie that we opened the class with, will forever be etched in my memory. I think Sir did a great job of introducing the concept of reflexivity in film and literature by choosing this movie to open the portals of inquisition when it comes to the movie experience. We talked in great detail about intertexuality, and it being preceeded by textuality - and I found it funny how someone in class simply highlighted that fact by the almost-comical labels of Gandalf and George of the Jungle as the two leading characters.

Gods and Monsters was my first foray into the world of spectatorship, and how "the audience is never passive". Before, I always used to watch movies just for the sake of it, but finally, after four years as a Communication student, I'm glad to admit that now, when I see a film, I'm almost unconsciously nitpicking it, formulating questions in my head that only I hear - it'd be quite awkward and frankly annoying if I ask them to whoever is watching with me every moment, right? To add to the fact that the audience is never passive, in the post-discussion on Condon's movie helped me understand why the audience itself is a text, that the mind plays a part in filling in the gaps that the movie may perhaps have looked over.

I'm going to have to come clean and admit that I knew nothing about the movie before watching it aside from the fact that it was an adaptation of Christopher Bram's novel, Father of Frankenstein. It was quite a struggle following the narrative that the movie offered because I didn't know of James Whale.Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, were movies I know of, but I've never really seen them. It suffices to say that I totally knew zilch about the character that Ian McKellen was portraying. But my ignorance and naivete about some of the facts that the movie dealt with did not hinder me from appreciating the movie and the underlying themes that it rendered, which were pretty splendid, to say the least. I was not won over by a diatribe on the political progressions of societal acceptance of diverse sexual orientations, not with any sort of disgusted expose of Hollywood's miscreants. Instead, I found a minimal but simplistically acceptable narrative moved along by wonderful acting, vivid portrayals of what it's really like, beneath the typical distractions, gimmicks, and veils, to be a human being.

Ian McKellen astounded me. Fact or fiction, he wasn't necessarily James Whale, but a complicated, reserved, and often misunderstood director who found a glimmer of intrigue and desire for his new gardener, Clayton Boone, played impeccably by the then-delicious Brendan Fraser. From their initial meeting with Whale indulging in staring at Boone hard-driving an edger, I was struck by a remarkable sense of kinship between the two, which only got better as the film unfolded. And, with Hanna - the third vertex of the bizarre love triangle, and the edgy buffer between the men. I felt incredibly comfortable just watching three very different people open up to each other, and to me, the audience. Early on, although I still wasn't privy to the academic discourses and proper terms, there already existed the aspect of voyeurism, which, in my experience, achieved its climax when we watched Peeping Tom. Gods and Monsters's level of handing out the "voyeur experience" to the audience was a lot more subtle than how Peeping Tom seemed to shove it in the face of its viewers. (I vividly remember the scene where Mark's pencil fell from his pocket while the detectives were investigating the scene of the actress's murder, and everyone in class couldn't muffle their screams! That was a personal favorite of mine. And then the discussion proceeded to how the audience almost always identifies with the character, but that's another plane of discourse.)

The irony of the title, Gods and Monsters, is that whether someone or something is considered a 'God' or 'Monster' is largely due to perception…human perception. We invent our gods and our monsters daily, and they are usually people we know, love, hate, or admire. On a personal note, I especially loved watching the two real life friends, Lynn Redgrave and Ian McKellen, play perfect foils - Hanna praying for her beloved "Mr. Jimmy's" 'unspeakable' sinful soul because he's gay was hysterical. McKellen pretending to flirt with Fraser, the epitome of a totally straight guy that any gay guy could clock in a heartbeat, was also side-splitting. Hanna believing they were having a romantic relationship was just too much fun as she threw serving trays at them & gave Whale scorned looks as if to kill whenever he'd have Fraser in for lunch or tea. These subtleties made the movie an absolute delight, and because I've seen them happen to friends.

Although the emphasis was more on Whale and how his life changed after The Bride of Frankenstein, I actually agree with Sir's discussion in the repository about the movie that it's more about a young man growing up and coming to terms with himself, Clay Boone, of course. However, the notion that all Boone needed was to confront his homosexual fears and overcome his rigid concept of manhood is off-target. Boone is still trapped in adolescence because he is desperately trying to please his father (and even marketing himself as marriage material), and this makes the willing commitment to befriend Whale despite his sporadically abusive behavior all the more realistic. The removing of the towel near the end is a watershed moment in which victim opens up once more to the abuser in a moment of complete vulnerability and trust. That his trust is betrayed (as it must have been so many times before by the alcoholic parent in his life) is heartbreaking, and yet both men recover and acknowledge friendship, platonic love and mutual respect in the aftermath. In the process of reliving his childhood torment through a Father-Son relationship with James Whale, it is Clayton Boone who transforms himself and is fulfilled through Whale's friendship and shared wounds from an over demanding father. Whale's suicide at the end was not a reaction to failed lust for Boone - far from it. His suicide was borne from the strength and clarity he derived from Boone's compassion, allowing Whale to face his mortality and willingly make peace with his past.

The James Whale character in the movie may have thought himself a monster, a sexual predator with few redeeming qualities, but before dying he made a connection with another wounded soul, enabling both to heal. Whale's own redemption may have been the main plot of the movie, but Clayton Boone learning to sort out his confusion and pain was the sub-plot yet the exclamation point in the film's final scene. Watching him playfully 'Frankenstein-about' in the rain in recognition and celebration of the relationship that helped him achieve fulfillment was a celebratory moment, and not an unfortunate throw-in to appeal to typical Hollywood standards. And as Frankenstein in Whale's movie said, "Alone bad, friend good". (On a sidenote, this totally reminds me of Levinas' philosophy and his emphasis on the sense of "otherness". You should read Levinas, he's not as crazy as Marcel, and he has really good insights.)


Interesting links:
A five-minute read about the philosophy of 'Otherness'
James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters
Film: Gods and mummies
The shooting script

Submitted by: 053430



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Gods and Monsters is a film about the last week of the director of the famous horror films Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. The film in itself is reflexive in a way that it is an attempt to create a fictitious story to an otherwise real life event. The film is rich in its play of intertextuality as seen in the movie itself and its actors, subject, characters and society.

A major aspect of the film is James Whale's open homosexuality. Throughout his career in Hollywood it was said that James Whale lived an openly homosexual life which was uncommon during the 1930s. Hollywood during that time was surprisingly private which seemed like a small community that was separated from the rest of the world. Unlike today, everything in Hollywood was exposed to the public for the public's pleasure. There was always a strong homosexual presence in the realm of the arts however it wasn't that public during that time as seen in the scene when James Whale paraded Clay Boone in a luncheon that seemed to create a silent scandal. This can also be seen in Hanna's disapproval of James' lifestyle. It was rumored that this was the reason that James left the industry although this claim is highly disputable.

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The character of James Whale was played by Ian Mckellen. He like James is an openly gay person who works in the same industry as him. During an interview, the director really had Ian Mckellen in mind as he was writing the script. The director even thought that both James and Ian shared plenty of parallelisms that seemed to make him the obvious choice or even the person destined for the role.

The title Gods and Monsters can also be seen in James Whale's persona. As a filmmaker he is tasked to create a world or a reality through film like a God. On the other hand, he can also be seen as a monster. As Frankenstein was considered a product of the unnatural, it can also parallel to James Whale's homosexuality which was also considered unnatural. James being a monster can also be attributed to his debilitation. As his condition worsens he gradually loses himself and his humanity. Even forcing Clay Boone to kill him as he was gradually losing himself and his sanity and wanting to end it all.

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Gods and Monsters can also be attributed to the play of powers as seen in the relationship of James Whale and Clay Boone. James Whale was a sort of master or creator like God who held the power in the relationship despite his frail stature. On the other hand, Clay Boone was this person who had issues with his father and thus his failed relationship has caused him to fail as a person. This can also be the reason why Clay feels like an inferior human being. The relationship of James and Clay can be described as pederastic in which there is this master-apprentice type of relationship with a little bit of homoeroticism.

In the end though, James Whale had to die. This is of course a tragic retelling of his last days. His death spelled the rebirth of Clay Boone's humanity and reintroduction to society. On the other hand, his death has become his only solace to an otherwise horrid condition. It was bittersweet in a way. Ian Mckellen even asked the director that why must people focus on the decline of successful openly gay people instead of their prime. The director just said that though inspiring, it wasn't as dramatically rich.

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This was the death note that James Whale wrote:
To ALL I LOVE,
"Do not grieve for me. My nerves are all shot and for the last year I have been in agony day and night—except when I sleep with sleeping pills—and any peace I have by day is when I am drugged by pills. I have had a wonderful life but it is over and my nerves get worse and I am afraid they will have to take me away. So please forgive me, all those I love and may God forgive me too, but I cannot bear the agony and it is best for everyone this way.The future is just old age and illness and pain. Goodbye and thank you for all your love. I must have peace and this is the only way.
Jimmy

Links:
[http://www.filmvault.com/filmvault/austin/g/godsandmonsters1.html]
[http://archive.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/05/whale.html]

Submitted By: Twinkerbell 070515


An interesting dynamic between two films in this filmography, this one (Gods and Monsters) and Sunset Blvd., is the recurring image of the death in the pool. Whereas Joe dies a poor, loveless, yet fulfilled man, James was not so fortunate. How far the mighty fall, as they say, and truer words could not apply more to James Whale. It is dicouraging to see the aftermath of the world passing one by, especially in the film business and especially to an aspiring film maker like myself, but the industry is nonetheless more beautiful for it. I don’t mean the ferocity with which it chews up and spits out the very people that nourish it, but the beauty and the emotion that comes with the storytelling. James is an aging Hollywood giant, one completely ready to give it all up. It breaks my heart to think that people like James Whale might exist. He is a man, alone in his old age, with only a housekeeper. Though his attempt at trying to take advantage of Clayton was horrifying, it was so only for a few seconds for me, before the realization of the implications of what he was doing sank in. “Be my second monster,” James says. “Kill me.” What must it feel like to know that the world has passed you by and one is utterly alone?

Gods and Monsters has in it an element of the horror that most of the films we have seen so far in class contain—horror not in the sense of a dead Japanese girl coming out of your television screen but the horror which leads you to want to scrub thoroughly until you feel clean again. As with other reflexive films, sorrow plays as vital a part as the horror, as the characters that make one feel the horror in the first place are inevitably scarred and badly hurt, if not in the physical sense. James Whale, in this sorrow, turns to the very "monster" that has made him who he is in the embodiment of Clay Boone.

For there is an interesting dynamic: the monster/salvation image that James sees. Gods… is truly a gloom-and-doom movie as much as it is a strange kind of friendship between someone that seems so larger than life and a gardener. The way James seems to see Clay as some sort of muse, however, adds to the reflexive feel of the film. In the end, it's about the friendship that develops between the two and a fitting end to the life of James Whale. He didn't get his second monster, but he finally found his closure.


submitted by 061484


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