For our collaborative New Media project, we created an abstract film, completed with original music composed by Ben Kessler, that represents our take on the story of the monster in Frankenstein. We believe the monster’s journey, from coming into this Earth to his tragic end, is largely misunderstood. Rather than fear or despise the monster, he deserves the audience’s sympathy. In order to capture this, we looked at ways we could draw an audience into the journey to viscerally feel what the monster must have. Heavy visuals, emotionally evocative music, and the critical matching of the two creates this ideal captivation. In this way, the viewer can feel organic empathy for the monster as they go through the creature’s splendid birth, become victimized by confusion and prejudice, and ultimately reach an untimely end as life is extinguished.
The start of our film revolves around the concept of new life and birth. Scenes of youth and purity such as a sunrise and plants growing show the innocence that the Monster had when he came into the world. The aggressive monster that everybody thinks of when they hear “Frankenstein” was a product of his environment. He came into the world like every other human (except different means) with the expectation of being treated like a human. The soft, lighthearted beginning of the movie emphasizes that we do not believe that the monster is inherently evil. He was just looking to be accepted and loved by the world he came into. Our recurring image of a rose appears first here. New life beings as the rose blooms.
In order to draw the audience into the confusing mid-life section of the monster’s journey, it was important to create the essence of pain and prejudice. An important picture needed to be painted in order to have the sympathetic outcome so viewers feel for the monster. The composition of the music to match this picture happened at the same time that we were selecting our imagery. Through discussions with our group, we realized that as the music began to transition, from the hopeful light-hearted birth section to this painful confusion, we needed to have a similar transition of visuals. We set the scene with a series of music-timed lightning strikes that led into the synthesized bass underlay. This underlay was intended to match the tempo of a beating heart and we then included that visual to allot the grotesque and gritty nature of the rest of our film. An important inclusion also was the bouquet of roses. We wanted to keep the red flower, the essential icon of beauty and life, as a constant symbol throughout the film. In this phase, the flower is darker, dying, and lying on the floor instead of blooming. The importance of the storm matches the theme of brewing confusion and pain. Coming up with this idea as a group was very important for our project. We believed that storms would provide most clear thematic alignment with what we were trying to illustrate regarding the difficulties of the monster’s life. All of the visuals with the tesla coils, electricity, storms brewing, and the car crash test dummies all make the viewer feel like there is a build-up for a climax. This build-up, combined crucially with the music that will be discussed later, leads perfectly into the disastrous tragedy at the end of the monster’s life and our film.
From the beginning, we knew that we needed to match the intensity of the rising action with a cathartic, abrupt end. We decided to input the key elements of the creature’s tragedy: the self-actualizing moment where he confronted his own monstrosity and his unintentional murder of the farmer’s young daughter. His psychotic confusion and remorse was intercut with the scene of the daughter offering him a flower, representing the only time someone treated him with genuine kindness. This not only provided emotional depth to the monster, but also juxtaposed his violent brutality with his inherent innocence. We returned to the motif of the beautiful red rose, but now engulfed in flames. This symbol of beauty and life now became consumed by the flame of society’s bigotry towards the monster’s repulsive appearance. What was something so harmless and pure was unceremoniously incinerated and poisoned by prejudice. The extinguishing flame from the candle interlaced with the wind chimes symbolized the monster’s tragic, yet futile demise. Even though the monster’s story had marred the existence of those around him, it will all prove to be futile. Soon, no one will remember what drove him to become this monstrosity, and for this reason none will learn from his tragedy. They will continue to carry the same prejudice and bigotry against wicked creatures as they had done before. The monster’s tragedy is just another candle in the wind.
We composed the music to match the emotion of the visuals. The track begins with a number of voices from various old films. As the track develops, these voices become increasingly critical. The laughter is drowned out in reverb and delay effects to accompany this increase in intensity. These critical voices are intended to imitate those that haunt Frankenstein, for they are ultimately what compel Frankenstein to act in the way that he does. Including these voices at the outset of the video orients viewers; they are compelled to assume Frankenstein’s perspective. This suggests a sort of empathy between the viewer and Frankenstein which persists throughout the whole video. The next section contrasts sharply with the chilling introduction. The acoustic guitar in combination with the light synthesizer produces a joyful, innocent quality. This is intended to capture the simplicity of the beautiful emotions associated with birth. The subsequent section begins with a mysterious voice presumed to be in Frankenstein’s own head: “there has to be an answer.” This line encapsulates the intense frustration and desperation that Frankenstein experiences. The visual of the beating heart is matched with a deep beating drum. This entire section is a single crescendo–a single, continuous increase in intensity. Each time the chords repeat themselves, there is an additional instrument to make the sound bigger. This is the climax of the soundtrack and the film. The space between the final hits features a number of the same voices that haunted Frankenstein at the beginning of his life. As such, this suggests his fate was determined at his birth. This evokes a strong feeling of pity for Frankenstein. The song’s slow fade out mimics this emotion.
Cassidy, Ben Root, Ben Kessler, Ethan