Gods and Monsters (1998)

Gods and Monsters (1998)

A speculative but compassionate depiction of the later days of one of the first ever Hollywood directors



United Kingdom, United States of America
English, Hungarian
Amir Aboulela, Arthur Dignam, Brendan Fraser
105 min


This is the kind of biopic filmmakers should be making about filmmakers.

What it's about

Fifteen years after his retirement, aged gay film director James Whale lives as a recluse, with his stroke bringing back forgotten memories of his childhood, the Great War, and his exclusion from the Hollywood studio system after the Hays Code. He finds himself a confidant and an unusual connection with his handsome young gardener and former Marine Clayton Boone.

The take

While many homophobic people like to think otherwise, there have been gay people all throughout history, some that have survived war and pandemics and persecution and even became widely renowned. Gods and Monsters is a more speculative than accurate biopic about Hollywood director James Whale, who was actually out during his career. That being said, it’s astounding how writer-director Bill Condon and lead Ian McKellen created such a bittersweet examination of the Lost Generation, not just of the loves that were lost but of the lives that could not be lived, the longing that could not be actualized. And the film takes a risky, but nuanced subversion in the way it examines the Hollywood system, subverting the roles Whale and Boone have placed on others and on themselves. It’s a daring portrayal of both homosexuality and of the film industry, one that’s emotionally poignant and ahead of its time.

What stands out

I just love the way Gods and Monsters shifts in and out of reality and memories and recreations of Whale’s Frankenstein filmography. It’s not a subtle comparison of the way monsters in media reflect the anxieties, trauma, and discrimination one has gone through, but it’s certainly an effective one, and Condon makes it feel a bit similar to Whale’s own style.


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