so …. Gods and Monsters….
I’m still a bit overwhelmed by it all, so be patient.
James Whale – he was a director in early Hollywood. He created Frankenstein (and the monster) and Frankenstein’s Bride and The Invisible Man and other movies that were incredibly successful. But he also created what ppl dubbed the best musical movie when he directed Showboat. He started off the careers of many British actors such as Sir Laurence Olivier, as he being British himself, liked to work with fellow countrymen.
That said we meet James Whale when he’s already in his sixties and alone with his housekeeper/nurse who keeps an eye on him so that he takes his pills. He’s had a stroke.
There’s this beautiful analogy – Frankenstein’s monster was created by lightning – and now lightnings are misfiring in his brain and create crippling headaches and memory loss and aphasia.
A young and very eager film student comes by his house – Mister Kay – who adores Whale’s horror movies. unfortunately these are not the ones Whale is most proud of. There are a lot of side remarks (and snide remarks) about Hollywood’s greatest which I loved a lot – the witty dialogue feels as if we’re in a panopticum of sorts, going from picture to picture and getting dishy news about the people depicted. But in order to get the man to answer his questions about said horror movies, Kay has to agree to a rather mephistophelic deal: he’s going to drop a piece of clothing and will get one answer for it. But the deal falls through … Whale remembers when first he was young and knew someone just as eager and loved to draw him. A first love…
The doctor isn’t very helpful – the damage done to his brain is permanent and we don’t know enough about how a human brain is functioning so there’s no telling if Whale is ever going to get better.
The knowledge of this brought to life by Ian Gelder who is genial in the part. A glimpse of desperation in his eyes, his shoulders dropping, a head held proudly, honestly, I still find no words. it’s an amazing performance by an amazing actor and I’m still humbled and grateful that I got to see this.
And then there’s Clayton Boone.
Built like a greek statue (Mr. Whale’s words, but I concur) and an ex marine he comes from a farm and has been brought up with high values. he could snap anyone like a twig. And that’s also what he does – snapping twigs – he works as a gardener and Whale hires him. first as a gardener, but then he wants to draw him. and slowly and determinedly he gets the young man to feel comfortable in his presence, even after it is revealed that Whale is openly gay. they even attend a function with princess Margaret together. When they get home, it’s raining and they’re both soaking wet.
it is then that we see why Whale tried to befriend this particular young man. But – again – things don’t work out the way Whale wanted.
While young Mister Kay is off with “Rock” (Hudson) and Boone is sleeping in a chair very much unmolested, Whale finally finds peace.
there are some beautiful flashback scenes that give us glimpses of Whales youth – his time during1st world war in the trenches where he inspired young men – and had to lose them to an enemy’s bullet, an awkward but endearing scene of good bye after a night full of passion, that bring us closer to James Whale. But it is Ian Gelder’s magnificent performance that had me shocked and speechless and enthralled. He becomes the frail, sick and desperate man at the end of his life, his battle with his speech impediments are almost too real but never over the top. and his desire to go out on his terms and just the way he had lived is so strong, you can almost taste it. And yes, he is drawing the greek god like young Boone – but it’s what comes out of it that really breaks your heart. I admit I was teary eyed…
I also admit I was a bit overwhelmed. And too chicken to wait for Ian Gelder at the non-stage door (just one door, inside the theatre). I did buy one of his drawings though. They sell what he’s drawing during the show after he’s autographed it. It made it to Vienna. I just have to fixate it with spray.
After Amanda was so very kind and came up to me during intermission, I thanked her after the show and left to get a taxi. And then Ian approached ME and I was a babbling, incoherent mess and so very pathetic. sigh. Thank you, Ian Gelder.
btw Ian Gelder just oozes charisma. good lord, so much charisma. still….totally out of it, me.