Bernard Rose in an English filmmaker who graduated from directing music videos for artists such as UB40 and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, to writing and directing cult 90s horror Candyman. He now returns with his take on the classic Frankenstein tale.
Starburst: I think the first question has to be why Frankenstein, and why now?
Bernard Rose: I’d never read the book, so when I did, it struck me there were a couple of things that had either not been done before, or had been misrepresented. The first was that this wasn’t a book about digging up and reanimating corpses, that was James Whale’s invention. We all now think that’s what Frankenstein is about. The book actually states Dr. Frankenstein studies the bodies. The point Mary Shelley was making is that he is trying to create life and that’s what science is truly about.
S: The book is very much a father and son story, but you’ve made it more mother and son, and you seem to be focussing more on the consequences of that relationship and the creation’s actions.
What I loved about the book were the chapters that were told from the monster’s point of view, so in a sense I’ve just adapted those, and quoted from them directly. In terms of Elizabeth, I gave her some of the supposed attributes of Mary Shelley and it’s fascinating that she wrote about man’s desire to create life when it’s something women do routinely.
S: When you sat down with the story, were there specific moments and scenes that you wanted to update?
Like with Tony Todd’s character, the blind beggar is in all the films and the book, and here it’s still very much the same but in a different environment. I wanted to hit the big scenes people know but I didn’t want it to feel like I was just re-treading the same steps.
S: How did you balance the creature’s sympathy against his violence?
I think the point in the novel, and also in Karloff’s portrayal, with his humanity, is that the monster doesn’t know anything so he just reacts to how he’s treated. He doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done to him, but when he does it then he’s more successful as he’s almost superhuman. Then he suffers with terrible remorse.
S: You’ve had a diverse career spanning big budget blockbusters and also smaller independent films and we wondered how you think the filmmaking process has changed during your career?
In one sense everything has changed but in another nothing has. People are still watching the same old shit! And it’s hard to say everything has changed when the biggest film of the last year was another Star Wars film!
S: You were a digital pioneer and now there is nostalgia sweeping Hollywood.
There’s a part that’s great in keeping things alive, and I’ve been doing 35mm screenings of Paperhouse myself. But you can’t cut a film non-digitally now so that part has really changed.
S: As someone who has returned to the horror genre at different times over the years, what are your thoughts in it now?
The horror genre has always been extremely imitative. Halloween came out and we had dozens of slasher films, but Halloween is still Halloween. I’m more into the idea of adapting 19th Century texts, as there’s something interesting there and I want to do them in a really visceral way.
S: Is that where your future filmmaking lies?
I’m going to trawl my way through the horror literature of the 19th Century one by one. There’s a lot of gothic but a lot of that is the creation of Hammer and other interpretations. When people were writing at that time they were just writing the world as they knew it and therefore the texts can be adapted to any period. The horror literature of that period is incredibly strong. They were inventing a new genre and it was an era obsessed with death and spirituality.
Frankenstein is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray, and you can read our high praise of the film right here.