Edinburgh International Film Festival

Tender Son: The Frankenstein Project (2010)

Starring: Rudolf Frecska, Lilli Monori, Kornél Mundruczó, Kitty Csíkos

Directed by: Kornél Mundruczó

Rating: 1 2 3

Rudolf Frecska in Tender Son: The Frankenstein Project

This slow-burning Hungarian psycho-drama is billed as a 'reimagining' of Mary Shelley's classic novel Frankenstein, and indeed it traces the path of the second half of the novel fairly closely. The 'monster', Rudolf, an unwanted son abandoned in an orphanage by his teenage parents, returns to find the mother and father who created him. But clearly there's something not quite right with him, as he embarks on cinema's most low key killing spree ever, dispassionately disposing of anyone who gets in his way like a child chucking toys across the floor.

Like Shelley's novel, the film grapples with issues surrounding nature and nurture, and the often fraught relationships between parent and child. But while she describes in great detail how her monster is corrupted by the cruel treatment he receives, in Tender Son we're only left to guess at the institutional upbringing that resulted in Rudolf's unhappy mental state.

If this were a Hollywood film, it would be full of people screaming and running around, with a Psycho-style soundtrack sawing away in the background. But this is Hungarian cinema, and instead it's veeery sloooow (far too slow, judging by the snores echoing from the back of the cinema): lots of lingering shots of lips, eyes, grimy walls, desrted corridors, pigeons, snow, punctuated by sudden, blink-and-you-miss it moments of violence.

Although this kind of intimate, cheerless family drama isn't really my cup of tea (and wasn't really what I was expecting either - what no 'It's alive!'?), there is something oddly compelling about this film, and the ending is pure, chilling Frankenstein-ian bleakness.

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