Writer/director Andrew Weiner recently spoke with Phoenix Movie Examiner about his new found-footage flick “The Frankenstein Theory.”
In “The Frankenstein Theory,” which opened Friday, March 1 exclusively at AMC Arizona Center 24, Timothy V. Murphy plays a disgraced college professor who leads a documentary film crew to the rim of the Arctic Circle in a desperate effort to vindicate his academic reputation and prove that Mary Shelley’s literary classic “Frankenstein” is, in fact, a work of non-fiction disguised as fantasy.
Question: What was your motivation behind this project? In particular, why did you decide to look at Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein?”
Answer: Well, I am looking at a book that is over 200 years old. And I am not alone in having read this piece of literature that is as old as it is and I think that is because Mary Shelley wrote it. She started this novel when she was 17 or 18 years old. I think that her life is absolutely fascinating - equal parts tragic and triumphant. There is something that resonates about the novel. There is a certain humanity to this character - which is not human but I think that people identify with it. It is just one of those characters that lives on and on and on. I think that the book dealt with some really tough themes - what it means to be a human being, loss and fatal arrogance. Victor Frankenstein thinks that he can create this creature which will eradicate disease and death. His arrogance leads to calamity. Those are some things that I find very powerful. And because it takes so long to make a film, I need to find something that I am very passionate about. The elements in “Frankenstein” just really resonate for me, personally.
Q: As a filmmaker, how does the found-footage format differ from that of a traditional film? What are the benefits? What are the challenges? And how did you know that said format was right for this film?
A: The found-footage genre is tough. On the one hand, there is a certain amount of latitude if you don't have a lot of money to make a movie. People are maybe more forgiving of shoddy camerawork. That said, I am not and I made sure that my film was decently shot. I had a cinematographer who has a great visual eye. We spent a lot of time working together to develop the aesthetics of the film. There are certain rules that you have to adhere to because the camera is always operated by a character and in a traditional film the camera is just an impartial observer. So if you want an aerial shot in a found-footage film or a fake documentary, there has to be character that you've created within the story that is giving you that aerial shot. Those are just some of the obvious hurdles and things that you have to keep in mind. But for this particular movie, the format made sense. It is organic to the story.
Q: Finally, without spoiling any surprises, tell me about your Frankenstein. Who is he and why?
A: In this film, I am treating Mary Shelley's “Frankenstein” as nonfiction. I basically put forth the idea that most of the elements in the novel are true - with some embellishment. The creature in Mary Shelley's novel is unlike the Boris Karloff character that we are used to seeing in cinema. This is a creature that is hideously disgusting in terms of his physical appearance but is incredibly powerful, tall and strong. Where it differs from the Frankenstein we are used to seeing is, in the novel, the creature is incredibly fast, agile and highly intelligent. He is fluent in multiple languages. He has superhuman strength but also intelligence. But almost 200 years have passed since the novel so he has adapted to his basic surroundings. Also, his experiences with humans have gone very badly so he is now a reclusive, shadowy figure. Even though he is, in the novel, eloquent and highly intelligent, he has removed himself and moved into isolation for almost 200 years. And that has taken a psychological toll on him.I don't want to give too much away but, in terms of him whether you see him speaking or not, I would say that after his past experiences with people, he has perhaps taken a vow of silence. He is not interested in talking to people because he has been rejected time and time again.