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Gods and Monsters


Year: 1998 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

One of the most astounding things about Gods and Monsters is that its director, Bill Condon was previously best known for Candyman II: Farewell to the Flesh. Don’t come looking for any of that here...

Gods and Monsters’ main character is James Whale, whom you might not have heard of. He directed some films you might not have heard of, such as Green Hell and Wives Under Suspicion. He did also direct Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, though. The film industry is only a background for the movie, however, seen mostly as capricious, cruel and unforgiving, responsible for Whale’s isolation at the end of his life. His housekeeper Hannah is one source of company, but her old-fashioned religious morality unfortunately annoys Whale more than everything else. Another potential companion is Clinton Boone, Whale’s recently hired gardener. Their relationship is not uncomplicated either, as Whale is openly gay, and Boone is rather suspicious when asked to model for the director’s sketches.

This film is a character piece through and through, the kind of movie that begs for top-quality performances. And it gets them. McKellan brings out all of Whale’s complexities and contradictions to portray a sympathetic character, and Hannah is brilliantly played by Redgrave, who brings a sly wit and humour to the character. Fraser is shockingly good, managing to prove himself worthy of much more than the likes of Blast from the Past, and also managing to remain unintimidated by McKellan. It is really in the interaction between these two that the film’s impact lies - the friendship and dependence that develops has something to say about fear, compassion and understanding. To counter what might seem like an overblown seriousness, a wry sense of humour pervades the film, somehow managing to lighten the tone without detracting from it, even adding to it.

Despite its reliance of direction, dialogue and acting, this isn’t a play on film. Editing and camerawork are superb, and the use of the theme from Whale’s Frankenstein gives a haunting sense of nostalgia. Everything about the movie is quietly excellent. Films as good as Gods and Monsters are few and far between. You need to see it.

Katherine Shaw

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Screenings of this film:

1999/2000 Autumn Term (35mm)