Last night marked a historic event for the Nord University English Department and Bodø filmklubb. We teamed up for a screening of two Frankenfilms at Bodø’s stunning Stormen Library, and we had a record-breaking gallery audience of 50, composed of film fans, scholars, and university and high school students. We were delighted to be able to share this moment with so many friends – half of the fun of watching horror films is watching them with a crowd.
Dr. Jamie Callison opened the evening with some illuminating notes on the first film, James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), the all-time horror classic featuring Boris Karloff as a surprisingly humane monster trapped in a body and world he can’t understand. In Dr. Callison’s view, the on-screen horror speaks to events both before and after the film’s debut, making the film both historically valuable and chronologically prescient.
After a short break, Bodø filmklubb’s leader, Michael Baumann, had a little surprise in store for us. He introduced a second film, Frankenweenie (1984), which is a live-action short that predates the later stop-motion animated version by 28 years, but tells the same tale of a boy, Victor Frankenstein, who uses galvanistic forces to reanimate his beloved dog, Sparky. In this film, all of writer and director Tim Burton’s trademarks are present: the Gothic landscapes, the dry humor, the loving critique of suburban life. What struck us as we watched it as a double feature with Frankenstein (1931), however, was how Burton plays with the iconography of Whale’s masterpiece to both update it and to celebrate its place in the Hollywood canon. This was such a discovery for most of us present, and well worth the time.
We hope that Frankenreads will be the first of many collaborations between Bodø Filmklubb and the English Department, and I think our students would readily agree with that. Here are a couple pictures from the evening. The event was also featured in Bodø Nu newspaper, but it is behind a paywall. As soon as we are able, we will update this post with a full version.
This week marks the opening of our two exciting new Frankenstein exhibitions. Ice and Fire: Frankenstein and the Arctic, curated by Jamie Callison and Andrew McKendry with the support of the Nord University Library, focuses attention on Robert Walton’s doomed expedition to the Far North, with emphasis on details from whaling, Arctic exploration, and northern atmospheric phenomena, that would be of particular interest to scholars and fans of Frankenstein, expedition narrative, or of Romantic literature in general.
Our other exhibition, Frankenversions: 200 Years of Adapting Frankenstein, on display at the Nord University library through October 31, features representations of Frankenstein in everything from Beat poetry to breakfast cereal, and is not to be missed if you are on the Nord Bodø campus. Jamie Callison and I had a lot of fun planning and organizing this exhibition, and we were delighted to receive so much help and support from our faculty. Dr. Ana Borissova at natural sciences loaned us the Van der Graaff generator so that our visitors can see and hear live electricity and marvel over the forces of nature that inspired Mary Shelley in the first place. I was interviewed on NRK Nordland Radio today, and I have to admit that while, perhaps appropriately, terrifying (it’s the most Norwegian I’ve ever spoken in my life!), it was great to present the exhibition and to showcase a few of the many versions of Frankenstein we assembled. Here are a few pictures of some of the exhibits (all photos credited: Per Jarl Elle, Nord University):
Akademika bookstore is getting ready for Frankenweek by beginning to set out books for their Halloween horror pop-up store. They’ve got plenty of scary stories to tell in the dark on the shelves:
(photos by Audun Bjølgerud)
Check out the hardcover Lovecraft! They’ve also got a graphic novel adaptation of Frankenstein, and the 2018 Man Booker International Prize-shortlisted Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, which uses Shelley’s Frankenstein and the conventions of so-called “genre fiction” for inspiration, but deals with an entirely different kind of horror. Sounds like a must-read for those of us thinking about how far Frankenstein‘s cultural reach extends.