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Oops, I've let a bit of a film review back-log accrue again... Let's see what I can do about that this afternoon.

I saw this one with [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 at the Hyde Park Picture House. I found it OK, with some good performances, period settings and nice camerawork conveying an appropriately Gothic atmosphere where relevant (as in the Villa Diodati) but without undermining the basic realism of the film. Unfortunately, though, it plays pretty fast and loose with the actual facts of Mary's life - which was part of my complaint about The Happy Prince and Oscar Wilde (LJ / DW). Overall, it didn't irritate me anything like as much as The Happy Prince, because Mary simply wasn't a smug, entitled arse in the way that Oscar Wilde was, and nor was the film quite so intent on portraying her life as a tragic work of art. But it definitely did want to suggest that absolutely everything which happened to her before the publication of Frankenstein was all systematically and almost divinely destined to culminate in the production of that book, which didn't actually leave much space for her agency as a human author rather than a passive cork, tossed on the waves of life.

Here are just a few examples of the departures from reality which I noticed, based on the pre-holiday reading I did for our DracSoc trip to Geneva in 2016, and the exhibitions we saw while we were there (LJ / DW):

FilmReality
Mary meets Percy Shelley while staying with the Baxter family in Scotland, after she has been sent away there by her stepmother.Mary literally missed meeting Shelley for the first time because of this stay, as he came to London while she was away after securing the patronage of her father, William Godwin. They met only after she had returned, during his regular visits to the family home.
Neither Mary nor any of the Godwin household initially know that Percy has a wife and child, and Mary finds this out to her shock when they turn up outside her father's bookshop to ask where he is.All of them already knew all about the wife and child well before Mary became involved with Percy, because he had brought them to the Godwin family home to introduce them to everyone (though Harriet did turn up demanding for Mary and Percy to be kept apart once the relationship had begun).
Mary and Claire first set eyes on Byron at a theatrical demonstration of Galvinism, complete with experiments on frogs' legs.It was actually at a lecture on Milton delivered by Coleridge. Mary's knowledge of Galvinism came later, through conversations at the Villa Diodati.
Percy's friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg sexually assaults Mary in their home, in a move which comes as a complete surprise and (obviously) a shock to her.Percy had suggested to Mary in advance that she and Hogg should sleep together, and although she hated the idea at first, they corresponded about it. In those letters Mary seems interested but wary, but nothing ever came of it in the end.
Byron invites Percy and Mary to stay in his villa in Geneva and welcomes them as soon as they arrive.Claire conceives of the whole notion of tracking him down there and persuades the others to follow. They arrive two weeks before Byron and spend the intervening time in a hotel, waiting for him to turn up.
Mary writes the bulk of Frankenstein in run-down rented rooms in London.She wrote most of it while travelling onwards through Switzerland and into Italy after the Geneva stay.


Many more things are omitted, such as Mary and Claire's other siblings, Shelley bursting into the Godwin family home to propose a suicide pact with Mary as a way of escaping Harriet, and an earlier elopement to the continent by Mary and Percy (taking Claire with them). I am less concerned about omissions, which are necessary to convey a story coherently in the length of the film, but the distortions of reality here actively worked against one of the central claims of the film. On the one hand, it kept trying to show us how her life fed into her work, but on the other it wasn't even presenting her real life, but another fictionalised life which did not in fact lead up to the novel we know.

I could appreciate and give credit for some of what the production team were trying to do in the course of this, such as showing clearly how difficult it was for a woman to be taken seriously as an author in the early 19th century, as well as the brutal and disastrous consequences of the patriarchy generally and Byron and Shelley's notions of free love particularly for women with no access to contraception. But I felt that some other narrative decisions made for serious missed opportunities, and that applied particularly to the real complexities, drama and evident intellectual calibre of her relationship with Shelley, all of which were largely thrown away in favour of a pretty conventional troubled romance story.

In short, I'm glad I saw this (because I was always going to want to) and it's certainly better than The Happy Prince, but it could still have been an awful lot better than it was.


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