Monday, 12 January 2009

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1931. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was made in (1931), directed by Rouben Mamoulian and has influenced and changed the horror genre. I saw the film on New Year's day, 2009 at the BFI Southbank in London. I enjoyed the film very much and it raises many issues which I will discuss. The film concentrates in detail the status of the human mind.

The film is focused on a man (Dr. Jekyll) who struggles to break free of himself and tries to find religion as a solution. He has a split personality which was the result of a failed experiment which he had regretted. The film raises issues such as repression, individual moral conflict and also the battle between good and evil. The idea of individual moral conflict is used in the majority of horror films. Werewolves for example dominate the person and the person struggles to be their true selves due to having conflict between the beast of the wolf and their true characters. In consequence we are more fearful of their actions because of the anger and hatred these people/monsters have. We are fearful of Mr. Hyde because we can empathise with Dr. Jekyll and his good intentions that are being dominated by impulses and lust.

The film does emphasise high degrees of suppression on individuals and especially when it comes to sexual issues. One scene in the film which demonstrates this was when Dr. Jekyll meets a prostitute named Ivy Pearson who he finds attractive. He later arrives as Mr. Hyde who seduces her but she finds him hideous and tries to escape from him. He ends up destroying her life and he does not get the sexual pleasure and desires that he easily wanted. The film points out constraints on individuals and barriers society creates. The film also shows the faults of meddling with science and playing with the unknown. This in consequence creates uncertainty and distress. Mr. Hyde is a character who rebels norms and values of society but in the end suffers because of this. He wants to be free in the absolute meaning which creates tensions between him and Dr. Jekyll. As an audience we like and dislike the same person and we want Mr. Hyde destroyed. One particular example in the film when he behaves in a delinquent manner was the way he talks to Ivy Pearson and the threats he imposes on her in her house. He plays mind games with her by analysing her thoughts and he then starts behaving in a barbaric and disturbing way. He physically abuses her leaving marks on her back. He later leads her onto having suicidal thoughts. Later on in the film Dr. Jekyll arrives at her door as she bursts out in tears as she is terrified. He reassures her that Mr. Hyde would never come back. This promise fails however as Mr. Hyde returns later and kills her with his uncontrollable actions.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde differ in several ways. Firstly Mr. Hyde has no sense of morals and self control. Dr. Jekyll however has these elements in his life which makes him a likeable and respectable person. Even though we like Dr. Jekyll as a character, it seems as though Mr. Hyde is the real person that he would like to be despite their differences. He is against all suppression and constraints of individuals as he challenges the ideas of the world. I have never seen a film which expresses repression of an individual so well and how repression could lead that person to behave. Clearly the film deals with the psychoanalysis of a person. I think the film reflects the true repression of individuals but the scientific experiment that Dr. Jekyll takes upon himself made it clearer and more explicitly extreme.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is not only a film about conflict but also about domination of individuals. Dr. Jekyll has faith within himself that he will conquer and solve the problem of the good and evil side of people. This attitude is a religious one but he does not recognise the social effects on a person. The film also reflects attitudes towards love and hate. Dr. Jekyll has much conflict within himself because Mr. Hyde seeks to destroy and hate people rather than to care about them. The destructive nature of Mr. Hyde over powers Dr. Jekyll and he soon dominates him. Dr. Jekyll sees people in terms of individuals and characters more than the way society moulds people. This idea leads him onto believing that he can fix many problems with the whole way people function. This film is very important in reflecting the ways in which people would like to be free and the frustrations they have. Overall it is a wonderfully crafted film with a sad ending. Dr. Jekyll is in the end killed because of Mr. Hyde’s uncontrollable and animalistic behaviour. He suffers because of this and ends up shot.

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