Mary Shelley Dreaming is a short three-minute film made in 2014. It was nominated for Best Experimental Film at the Walthamstow International Film Festival of that year.
The film was built around some fragments of footage I'd filmed with a digital camera. The bare bulb light fitting. A street lamp in the driving snow. Boiler house chimneys belching steam into the night sky. I played about with these images, inverting them and adding a soundtrack that featured pealing bells played backwards and a droning electronic organ in poor repair. By then I was already thinking of science fiction, and in particular that trail-blazing early example of the genre, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, with its snow-bound sequences and themes of upturned social orders of one sort or another. To the first edit I added sequences featuring an Action Man dressed in an old sock and a seed pod wearing a mountaineering outfit. The title is an allusion to the story Shelley tells of how the idea for Frankenstein first came to her in a terrifying dream.
Mary Shelley is an inspiring figure who links the age of Jane Austin and the Napoleanic Wars to early feminist thinking, Romantic poetry and Gothic horror. I recently enjoyed reading a play based around a few years of her eventful life, Mary Shelley by Helen Edmundson.
My film was probably informed as much by the old Frankenstein movies made at Universal Studios in the 1930s as it was by Mary Shelley's famous book. That said, Shelley herself, as played by Elsa Lanchester, does make an appearance in James Whale's 1935 film, Bride of Frankenstein. Rather wonderfully, Lanchester also plays the monster's mate to iconic effect at the end of the film.