The Chaos of Creation and the Matters of Life

20 October 2018 5:00pm
State Library of Western Australia
Film program curated by Jack Sargeant
Free Entry

The Chaos of Creation and the Matters of Life presents the cinematic tangents of Frankenstein. This day-long film festival will be intersected with panel discussions moderated by curator Jack Sargeant.

Writer and academic Jack Sargeant is the author of Deathtripping: The Extreme Underground, Naked Lens: Beat Cinema, Cinema Contra Cinema and Suture. He has curated numerous film festivals internationally, including the vital Revelation Perth International Film Festival.


5.00pm  Jack Sargeant to introduce program
5.10pm  Upstream Color, 2013, 96mins
6.45pm  Q+A panel chat
7.10pm  Gothic, 1986, 87mins (35mm print)
8.40pm  Q+A panel chat
9.10pm  The Curse of Frankenstein, 1957, 83mins (35mm print)


Frankenstein in cinema has often be linked to the gothic. To a world characterised by the remote foreign castle occupied by the mad scientist and his deranged assistant, the macabre stitching together of corpses to create a man, and the scientific quest for life! Frankenstein, sometimes a shorthand for the monstrous creation rather than the scientist, often exists in a supernatural world alongside the vampire and werewolf (most recently in the television series Penny Dreadful). But conceptually Frankenstein exists as a colloquial shorthand for an unsettling engagement with science and scientific experimentation. This trio of films offers multiple ways into Frankenstein and the ideas introduced within Mary Wollstonecraft’s book.

Upstream Color
Shane Carruth, USA | 2013 | Rated M

On the surface Shane Carruth’s experimental science fiction film has no clear links to Mary Wollstonecraft’s novel. But the narrative and mis-en-scene in Upstream Color are embedded within questions about the nature of experience, what it means to be human, the nature of identity, the nature of solitude and of unity, the limitless possibilities for biological life, and the relationships between humans, science, and nature. There are moments of quasi-body-horror set against the disconnected existence of the contemporary slipstream world, all wrapped in a surrealist, quasi-Lynchean mystery. If Frankenstein reflected the concerns of its era, then Upstream Color engages with contemporary anxieties; fears of biological infestation, economic disaster, and ever present threats to our autonomous self-identity.

Ken Russell, UK | 1986 | Rated M

Gothic is set on the fateful May night in Switzerland when Mary Wollstonecraft (Natasha Richardson), Percy Shelly (Julian Sands), Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne), Claire Clairmont (Myriam Cyr), and John Polidori (Timothy Spall) came together in a villa on the shore of Lake Geneva. The night would result in the writing of John Polidori’s novel The Vampyre and of Mary Wollstonecraft’s classic Frankenstein. In Gothic the events are characterized by a combination of decadence, extravagance, eroticism, and mysticism, a night of seances, visions, and nightmares. Lurid, camp, expressionistic, and excessive, Gothic is classic Ken Russell, combining vivid psychedelic colours, flashes of gore, and dream realities, and the cast turn in some great performances (Cyr’s Clairmont and Spall’s Polidori are both wonderfully delivered). A joyous celebration of decadence, the visionary nature of writing, and the genesis of Wollstonecraft’s Frankenstein.

The Curse of Frankenstein
Terence Fisher, UK | 1957 | Rated M

The first colour horror film from Hammer, The Curse of Frankenstein stars the studio’s legends Peter Cushing (as Baron Victor Frankenstein) and Christopher Lee (as the Monster). The blood and gore gothic aesthetic that became Hammer’s signature is perfectly realised in the film and Christopher Lee’s performance as the Monster is genuinely unsettling. The film launched Hammer’s reputation for a unique manifestation of gothic horror, and alongside the studio’s subsequent movies – Dracula, 1958, and The Mummy, 1959, both directed by Fisher and starring Cushing and Lee – firmly established the style of the classic Hammer movies.

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