Ken Russell’s films are always interesting to look at, although those who haven’t acquired a taste for his symbolism-laden work and his perplexing visual jokes tend to write them off as nothing more than that. Russell is a smart filmmaker – sometimes too smart – and his movies are uncompromising in their refusal to provide a straightforward narrative. Is there any way to make Russell’s films easier to follow? Apparently there is. If the subject matter is fantastic enough, it might just be that Russell’s need for outrageous images can be satisfied without needing to introduce as many incomprehensible visual non-sequiturs.
In Gothic, Russell has characters that are among the most colourful in history: the writers Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne), Percy Shelley (Julian Sands), Mary Godwin (Natasha Richardson), who was soon to be Mary Shelley, Dr. John Polidori (Timothy Spall) and Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairemont (Myriam Cyr). These were real folks, and by all accounts, they were pretty wild. Their behaviour, and their written works, were ample evidence of this.
The premise here is fascinating – it’s 1816 and the five have gathered at an isolated island estate in Switzerland to share scary stories and stir up scary dreams. They gather around a skull – with the assistance of drugs – to conjure up their greatest fears. They have fertile imaginations, later demonstrated by Polidori’s creation of The Vampyre, which inspired the character Count Dracula, and Mary’s creation of Frankenstein. Legend says that both were inspired by this night of sitting around a skull and letting their imaginations run wild.
Excerpt from Brian Webster\'s review at the Apollo Film Guide
Audio: English (stereo); German (stereo); French (mono); Italian (mono); Spanish (mono)
Subtitles: French; Italian; Spanish; Dutch; Greek; English (HoH)
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1