Tender Son: The Frankenstein Project

Tender Son: The Frankenstein Project


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

No one could ever accuse Kornel Mundruczo of being scared to tackle a big project. But ambition doesn't always equate to success.

So it was with his Joan Of Arc inflected hospital opera Johanna and so it is with his latest film, which looks lovely but fails to come up with the emotional goods. This time around, he's taking on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Although it is cited as merely an 'inspiration', it's clear that he intends to transport the Modern Prometheus to moderrn-day Hungary. Here the 'monster' is transformed into a flesh-and-blood young man (Rudolf Frecska), who arrives on the doorstep of his absentee mother's decaying apartment building for reasons that largely go unprobed. On entering the block, he finds himself co-opted into an audtion with a director (Mundruczo himself) - the block's only other resident - who has hired one of the apartments as he preps for a film.

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Despite having the look of a hounded puppy dog, it turns out the young man has some serious psychological issues when, after being told to kiss a would be co-star, he has a murderous freak out, which will not be his last. Here, it seems Mundruczo is trying to build on the Frankenstein idea of 'abandonment' leading to monstrosity, but the dots are not well-connected enough. Where Frankenstein's creation was utterly bewildered by his surroundings, prompting him to lash out, here we are given no help to sympathise with this 'manmade monster's' reactions. We are offered no backstory and, far from being confused by what is going on around him, the young man seems to be constantly calculating what he can get from the situation. That said, he's so enigmatic, we might as well be watching a blank sheet of paper.

There are some good ideas here, lying beneath the wintry snows of the narrative. Initially, Mundruczo plays around with the distinctions between acting and reality, genuine emotion and pretend feelings - but these are all too quickly jettisoned. The pace is so glacial it strains the patience, and yet plot points such as a sudden romance are thrown in with so little explanation or build up that they defy credibility. Despite all this, there are several individual scenes which are really quite beautiful - a moment of shared emotion and a can of peaches, the sight of someone attempting to cry to order or key pieces of dialogue set against the busy thrum of a washing machine. There is no denying that Mundruczo has a knack for creating tension - but the lack of motivation or pay off is a disappointment.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2011
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There are other ways to create a monster.
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Director: Kornél Mundruczó

Starring: Rudolf Frecska, Kitty Csíkos, Kornel Mundruczo, Lili Monori, Miklos Szekely

Year: 2010

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: Hungary, Germany, Austria


EIFF 2011

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