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Screenplay of adaptation titled ‘Dr Francesca Stein’, loosely based on Frankenstein, a novel by Mary Shelly.
Extract from the novel by Mary Shelly:
The deep grief which this scene had at first excited quickly gave way to rage and despair. They were dead, and I lived; their murderer also lived, and to destroy him I must drag out my weary existence. I knelt on the grass and kissed the earth and with quivering lips exclaimed, "By the sacred earth on which I kneel, by the shades that wander near me, by the deep and eternal grief that I feel, I swear; and by thee, O Night, and the spirits that preside over thee, to pursue the daemon who caused this misery, until he or I shall perish in mortal conflict. For this purpose I will preserve my life; to execute this dear revenge will I again behold the sun and tread the green herbage of earth, which otherwise should vanish from my eyes forever. And I call on you, spirits of the dead, and on you, wandering ministers of vengeance, to aid and conduct me in my work. Let the cursed and hellish monster drink deep of agony; let him feel the despair that now torments me." I had begun my adjuration with solemnity and an awe which almost assured me that the shades of my murdered friends heard and approved my devotion, but the furies possessed me as I concluded, and rage choked my utterance. I was answered through the stillness of night by a loud and fiendish laugh. It rang on my ears long and heavily; the mountains re-echoed it, and I felt as if all hell surrounded me with mockery and laughter. Surely in that moment I should have been possessed by frenzy and have destroyed my miserable existence but that my vow was heard and that I was reserved for vengeance. The laughter died away, when a well-known and abhorred voice, apparently close to my ear, addressed me in an audible whisper, "I am satisfied, miserable wretch! You have determined to live, and I am satisfied." I darted towards the spot from which the sound proceeded, but the devil eluded my grasp. Suddenly the broad disk of the moon arose and shone full upon his ghastly and distorted shape as he fled with more than mortal speed. I pursued him, and for many months this has been my task. Guided by a slight clue, I followed the windings of the Rhone, but vainly. The blue Mediterranean appeared, and by a strange chance, I saw the fiend enter by night and hide himself in a vessel bound for the Black Sea. I took my passage in the same ship, but he escaped, I know not how. Amidst the wilds of Tartary and Russia, although he still evaded me, I have ever followed in his track. Sometimes the peasants, scared by this horrid apparition, informed me of his path; sometimes he himself, who feared that if I lost all trace of him I should despair and die, left some mark to guide me. The snows descended on my head, and I saw the print of his huge step on the white plain. To you first entering on life, to whom care is new and agony unknown, how can you understand what I have felt and still feel? Cold, want, and fatigue were the least pains which I was destined to endure; I was cursed by some devil and carried about with me my eternal hell; yet still a spirit of good followed and directed my steps and when I most murmured would suddenly extricate me from seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Sometimes, when nature, overcome by hunger, sank under the exhaustion, a repast was prepared for me in the desert that restored and inspirited me. The fare was, indeed, coarse, such as the peasants of the country ate, but I will not doubt that it was set there by the spirits that I had invoked to aid me. Often, when all was dry, the heavens cloudless, and I was parched by thirst, a slight cloud would bedim the sky, shed the few drops that revived me, and vanish. I followed, when I could, the courses of the rivers; but the daemon generally avoided these, as it was here that the population of the country chiefly collected. In other places human beings were seldom seen, and I generally subsisted on the wild animals that crossed my path. I had money with me and gained the friendship of the villagers by distributing it; or I brought with me some food that I had killed, which, after taking a small part, I always presented to those who had provided me with fire and utensils for cooking. My life, as it passed thus, was indeed hateful to me, and it was during sleep alone that I could taste joy. O blessed sleep! Often, when most miserable, I sank to repose, and my dreams lulled me even to rapture. The spirits that guarded me had provided these moments, or rather hours, of happiness that I might retain strength to fulfil my pilgrimage. Deprived of this respite, I should have sunk under my hardships. During the day I was sustained and inspirited by the hope of night, for in sleep I saw my friends, my wife, and my beloved country; again I saw the benevolent countenance of my father, heard the silver tones of my Elizabeth's voice, and beheld Clerval enjoying health and youth. Often, when wearied by a toilsome march, I persuaded myself that I was dreaming until night should come and that I should then enjoy reality in the arms of my dearest friends. What agonizing fondness did I feel for them! How did I cling to their dear forms, as sometimes they haunted even my waking hours, and persuade myself that they still lived! At such moments vengeance, that burned within me, died in my heart, and I pursued my path towards the destruction of the daemon more as a task enjoined by heaven, as the mechanical impulse of some power of which I was unconscious, than as the ardent desire of my soul. What his feelings were whom I pursued I cannot know. Sometimes, indeed, he left marks in writing on the barks of the trees or cut in stone that guided me and instigated my fury. "My reign is not yet over"—these words were legible in one of these inscriptions—"you live, and my power is complete. Follow me; I seek the everlasting ices of the north, where you will feel the misery of cold and frost, to which I am impassive. You will find near this place, if you follow not too tardily, a dead hare; eat and be refreshed. Come on, my enemy; we have yet to wrestle for our lives, but many hard and miserable hours must you endure until that period shall arrive." Scoffing devil! Again do I vow vengeance; again do I devote thee, miserable fiend, to torture and death. Never will I give up my search until he or I perish; and then with what ecstasy shall I join my Elizabeth and my departed friends, who even now prepare for me the reward of my tedious toil and horrible pilgrimage! As I still pursued my journey to the northward, the snows thickened and the cold increased in a degree almost too severe to support. The peasants were shut up in their hovels, and only a few of the most hardy ventured forth to seize the animals whom starvation had forced from their hiding-places to seek for prey. The rivers were covered with ice, and no fish could be procured; and thus I was cut off from my chief article of maintenance. The triumph of my enemy increased with the difficulty of my labours. One inscription that he left was in these words: "Prepare! Your toils only begin; wrap yourself in furs and provide food, for we shall soon enter upon a journey where your sufferings will satisfy my everlasting hatred." My courage and perseverance were invigorated by these scoffing words; I resolved not to fail in my purpose, and calling on heaven to support me, I continued with unabated fervour to traverse immense deserts, until the ocean appeared at a distance and formed the utmost boundary of the horizon. Oh! How unlike it was to the blue seasons of the south! Covered with ice, it was only to be distinguished from land by its superior wildness and ruggedness. The Greeks wept for joy when they beheld the Mediterranean from the hills of Asia, and hailed with rapture the boundary of their toils. I did not weep, but I knelt down and with a full heart thanked my guiding spirit for conducting me in safety to the place where I hoped, notwithstanding my adversary's gibe, to meet and grapple with him. Some weeks before this period I had procured a sledge and dogs and thus traversed the snows with inconceivable speed. I know not whether the fiend possessed the same advantages, but I found that, as before I had daily lost ground in the pursuit, I now gained on him, so much so that when I first saw the ocean he was but one day's journey in advance, and I hoped to intercept him before he should reach the beach. With new courage, therefore, I pressed on, and in two days arrived at a wretched hamlet on the seashore. I inquired of the inhabitants concerning the fiend and gained accurate information. A gigantic monster, they said, had arrived the night before, armed with a gun and many pistols, putting to flight the inhabitants of a solitary cottage through fear of his terrific appearance. He had carried off their store of winter food, and placing it in a sledge, to draw which he had seized on a numerous drove of trained dogs, he had harnessed them, and the same night, to the joy of the horror-struck villagers, had pursued his journey across the sea in a direction that led to no land; and they conjectured that he must speedily be destroyed by the breaking of the ice or frozen by the eternal frosts. On hearing this information I suffered a temporary access of despair. He had escaped me, and I must commence a destructive and almost endless journey across the mountainous ices of the ocean, amidst cold that few of the inhabitants could long endure and which I, the native of a genial and sunny climate, could not hope to survive. Yet at the idea that the fiend should live and be triumphant, my rage and vengeance returned, and like a mighty tide, overwhelmed every other feeling. After a slight repose, during which the spirits of the dead hovered round and instigated me to toil and revenge, I prepared for my journey. I exchanged my land-sledge for one fashioned for the inequalities of the frozen ocean, and purchasing a plentiful stock of provisions, I departed from land. I cannot guess how many days have passed since then, but I have endured misery which nothing but the eternal sentiment of a just retribution burning within my heart could have enabled me to support. Immense and rugged mountains of ice often barred up my passage, and I often heard the thunder of the ground sea, which threatened my destruction. But again the frost came and made the paths of the sea secure.
[Synopsis of adaptation]
Dr Francesca Stein has majored in biomimetics and engineering. She is a powerful, assertive, and intelligent CEO of a company which specialises in the research of humanoid technology. The aim of the company is to be able to create a new generation of human beings, ones that are formed robotically, rather than biologically, enabling the maker to monitor the characteristics of the product and therefore eliminating the natural and emotional flaws of humankind. In order to ensure that the robots are as realistic as possible, they are instilled with the memories and features of dead humans, who choose to donate their bodies to the cause, prior to their deaths. This naturally, gives rise to many discussions on the ethical implications of this concept, and the company is seen throughout the adaptation to be struggling against an anti-humanoid society.
Dr Francesca’s husband was recently killed in a fire, which was caused by radicalised members of the anti-humanoid society, so she creates a humanoid of her late husband, with the help of her close friend, Dr Elizabeth Lavenza. This creation is different to the usual robots made at the company because the body was completely destroyed in the fire, so instead, it is formed from a collage of different bodies, with one key feature taken from each body. His brain is also a compilation of all the cadavers’ brains, firstly, because not much could be salvaged from her late husband’s brain and secondly, to ensure that all the different bodily tissues combine. Dr Lorenza is, at first, surprised that Dr Stein is able to find bodies which possess features that match perfectly to that of her late husband’s, since it seems to be an impossible task, but she decides against questioning her friend. Their pursuits are successful and the humanoid is made.
Since the ‘monster’, Viktor, was compiled of may different people, he suffers from disconcerted and incomprehensible thoughts and feelings. He has nightmares of the deaths of a several different individuals he doesn’t recognise. He discusses this with his wife, in the presence of Dr Lavenza. His wife dismisses it as symptoms of anxiety as he comes to terms with being accepted into society. At this point, the anti-humanoid organisation have received the news of Dr Stein’s new creation and how he was made, this creates an outcry and some members come forward with accusations that the robot resembles some of their missing loved ones. Small tabloid newspapers recently published information on missing individuals, which Elizabeth immediately recognises as the body donors used to create Viktor. She informs Viktor on her discoveries and he realises that his dreams and feelings are the memories and thoughts of all those that his wife murdered. He is also driven to feelings of suicide because of the overwhelming sense of pain caused by all the victims he embodies.
Viktor cannot commit suicide in the same way as a human, he must be destroyed using specialist equipment that cannot be accessed without alerting Dr Stein of their intentions. Viktor decides that the only solution would be to attend the hearing, which came about after the anti-humanoid society accused Dr Stein of perverse indifference towards ethical considerations and demanded that Viktor be destroyed. During the hearing, while the attendants discuss how the humanoids, who have no concept of morality and law and are created by a company which is not concerned with these issues, can be trusted to continue existing, Viktor kills Dr Stein. This seems to validate to everyone that the humanoids are dangerous and must be destroyed. Elizabeth offers to carry out the procedure. During the process, she removes the memories of the victims and the ‘monster’ is seen to die in peace and the company is closed down.
Screenplay of the adaptation of this extract:
In this scene, Elizabeth has just discovered that the bodies used to create Victor were not donated, but murdered by Dr Francesca Stein, in order to ensure that she used bodies that matched the exact specification. Elizabeth visits Victor to explain the situation to him as she believes that this discovery acts an explanation for his terrible nightmares about the murders of several individuals he doesn’t recognise.
The scene takes place in a clinically modern bedroom; the room is extremely clean and dimly lit. One side of the room is made up of floor to ceiling windows with panoramic views of the London skyline, creating the sense that Victor is both superior to and isolated from society. Victor, the humanoid ‘monster’ is laying on a bed in the centre of the room with a solitary wire attached to his head. The camera shot starts off by capturing the scenic views and slowly pans around until Victor comes into view; he is dressed entirely in white and Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’ is playing very softly in the background (suggestive of the need for help and reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster comparing himself to Adam, in the novel). There is an uncanny sense of calm as it is intertwined with the fact that the room resembles that of a hospital ward and Victor is clearly suffering from bad nightmares.
The camera shot changes to show a close up of Victor; this bedside view slowly encircles Victor as shudders and convulsions ripple through his body. Just as he is seen to be becoming more distressed, he is awoken suddenly by firm, but gentle feminine hands removing the cord attached to his head. Camera angle cuts to show the two actors facing each other. Elizabeth, a tired, dark haired, stern looking woman, dressed casually in a dishevelled shirt and jeans is leaning protectively over Victor, who is a dark haired man with piercingly bright grey eyes and light ebony skin, heavily marbled with scars. Elizabeth turns to a switch beside Victor’s bed and the room is flooded with blinding fluorescent light creating a sense of alarm and shock. Romantic feelings between the two characters is implicitly demonstrated through their close proximity and the continuance of the soft melody in the background. Elizabeth lightly strokes a scar on his arm in a gesture that is both caring and embarrassed.
Victor does not respond but a close up of his eyes show signs of panic, distress and confusion. Frame returns to both actors.
Elizabeth:... There are only so many human flaws that we can get rid of... before you lose all signs of humanity -
Elizabeth: [She continues, evidently trying to fill up the silence] - Sometimes I wonder if it is even possible to create the perfect human.. or why we’re even trying... then again you wasn’t built for that purpose...
Another pause , music still playing in the background. Victor stares intently at Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: [sighs] What did you see today?
Victor: [closes his eyes and takes a deep, strained breath before speaking] Same.. it’s always the same.. but a different person. [opens his eyes and stares at the ceiling] It isn’t just what I see though.. that isn’t the worst part. The most vivid part is how it makes me feel... the pain.
He moves his hand distractedly to touch a particularly hideous scar which frames his face, beginning just bellow his right ear, and he traces it down the length of his neck and down onto his chest, where he finally lays his hand to rest.
Victor: ... each... each piece of me... I can feel each piece of me being torn apart... some areas more than others... and the screams... they’re not my own screams.. well I don’t think they are... I am screaming, but every time I do, the scream sounds different.
He glances over at her.
Elizabeth: Do you see anyone you recognise?
Victor: I saw Frankie once.
Elizabeth: What was she doing?
Victor: She was helping me of course... well... trying to anyway. She would reattach the limbs that were torn off... only after some time, I begged for her to stop.
Elizabeth: [Frowning and touching his arm] Why would you want that?
Victor: [Readjusting himself so he is sitting upright] Every time she reattached a part of me, it wasn’t long before the whole process repeated itself all over again... and it was always worse the second time around. So, in a way... her help only helped to facilitate the cycle... an endless cycle of excruciating pain [his full lips turn up into a small, pained smile]... she was just dragging out my weary existence.
Elizabeth rises and starts to pace the room, evidently battling with her thoughts; she continues this action until finally stopping in front of the now-darkened skyline.
Victor:[rising slowly from the bed, watching Elizabeth with a look of concern] Liz? What is it?
Elizabeth: I...I... [sighs heavily]
Victor: C’mon tell me. What is it Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: I think I know what your dreams are about, only, you’re not going to like it [voice drops to a whisper] I’m so sorry Vic. If only humanity was as indefectible as you.
Victor frowns and strides over to the CD player, switches off the music and turns to Elizabeth. The scene descends into silence.
Victor: What are you talking about? Sorry for what?
Elizabeth carefully pulls out a folded piece of paper from her pocket and looks at it for a second, before turning, and after pausing to look intently at Victor, she hands it to him. He opens it and the camera cuts to show a ‘missing persons’ poster.
Elizabeth: His name is Will Clays. He was an aerospace engineer who lived in Glasgow, but he came down to London after being offered a job he couldn’t refuse... Apparently, the company offering him the job was the company owned by your wife... The job was offered to him, despite him not having any of the requirements we usually expect and during the time that she was gathering ‘donors’ [gestures quote marks when she says the word ‘donors’]
Victor: [evidently confused] I recognise this man.. he was in one of my dreams.
Elizabeth: I bet he was...
Victor looks questioningly at Elizabeth, waiting for further explanation. His scars and luminous eyes reflecting the fluorescent lighting, creating a sense of menace.
Elizabeth: Will Clays’ body was one of the cadavers used to create you... Victor Stein’s body was destroyed so badly in a fire that there was no way we could have used his body to create you -
Victory: - Okay, but isn’t that standard procedure for this company? And where did you get this poster from?
Elizabeth: Yes, we use cadavers, but the cadavers of people who agreed to gift us with their bodies prior to their deaths –
Victor: - And Clays?
Elizabeth: Clays doesn’t even have a death certificate.. as you can see from the document you’re holding, he has been declared missing. This came to my attention when the anti-humanoid society were distributing them, accusing us, as usual, of unethical practices, specifically grave robbing and body snatching... in order to create you. I didn’t take any notice until I saw this poster and recognised him as one of the actual cadavers that were used... Will Clays... and all the other men... all disappeared off the face of the earth a couple days after Francesca Stein decided to create you –
Victor: - So you’re saying that she murdered them to make me... Is that what you’re saying?
Elizabeth: Yes Victor... That’s exactly what I’m saying..
Victor: That’s a big accusation to make!
Elizabeth produces another document from her other pocket.
Victor: What’s this?
Elizabeth: More proof for my accusations, she is my friend you know, I had to do all my research before coming to you. These are all the conversations she had with the hit-men she paid to provide the perfect donors, how much she paid them and the disposal orders forgetting rid of whatever was left after the experiment was complete.
Victor: ... Vile way to put it.
Elizabeth: befits the situation no?
Victor: Don’t sneer at the dead.
Elizabeth: You’re anger it targeted at the wrong person, Vic... Listen, this would also explain the nightmare that you have been having; you’re mind is not your own... it is a collection of the minds of others.. men whose last memories was that of their own murder.
Victor sinks to the ground and holds his head in his hands.
Victor: You have to destroy me Elizabeth... I can’t live this way... with this knowledge... with their memories... I can’t stay here... in this eternal hell where their voices chase me... haunt me... even when I’m awake they’re there in my head... their head... while I hold onto their flesh, they’ve imprisoned my mind... please Elizabeth...
Elizabeth: Victor, listen to me. None of this is your fault and maybe you can learn... be taught.. how to silence –
Victor: – [raising with fury and frantically collecting items from around the room and dressing himself] I DON’T WANT TO BE TAUGHT ANYTHING BY ANYONE! ... I’m married to their murderer Lizzie! What are you going to teach me? Denial? Immorality? You going to remove this artificial conscious you blessed me with? [sniggering demonically] What will the anti-humanoid society have to say about that?
Elizabeth: [following him around the room] Listen... Victor listen to me... Even if we wanted to destroy you, you can’t be killed like a human, no man-made weapon can kill you. You were designed to be indestructible! You need very specific equipment for that and we can’t access it without alerting Francesca.
Victor: [Stops to look at her with conviction] Oh, I don’t plan to leave before her.
Elizabeth: Will you be able to kill her?
Victor: I must. I have no choice... and besides, my mind is not my own... just call me crazy.
Elizabeth: [pleading] There are other ways that we could ruin her, make her miserable... I mean, we could just get her arrested!
Victor: Human solutions. Pointless and petty. Like she couldn’t afford to buy her freedom! ... There is always a good enough price isn’t there?... No, she cannot be allowed to get away with what she did to those people. You can’t hear their pain Lizzie, you can’t hear their screams. I have to be the one to do it too... avenge their deaths with their own hands... and nobody will question your reasons for destroying me after I do it. I’ll kill my wife and then you kill me okay? Shakespeare would envy this love story of mine.
Victor laughs cynically and turns to leave; when he reaches the door her turns and looks expectantly at Elizabeth.
Elizabeth:[Following him] Look who’s joking about death now. Where are you going?
Victor: Did you forget about the hearing... with the anti-humanoids? The one where they decide whether or not I’m a liability [another laugh escapes him]... seems like the perfect place don’t you?
Elizabeth: Not really..
Victor: There has to be no doubt that I am the one who murdered her; it must be in plain sight. So you can destroy me after.. has you feeble human mind forgotten already?
Elizabeth: [In a small voice] Why do I have to do it?
Victor: Because I want it to be you... would you do that for me?
Elizabeth: I don’t want you to go...
Victor: Lizzie... I’m just a machine... C’mon.
He takes hold of her hand and leads her out of the room. Hans Zimmer ‘time’ plays in the background as the pair make their way to the dreaded hearing.
ca Stein decided to create you –
Victor: Human solutions. Pointless and petty. Like she couldn’t afford to buy her freedom! ... There is always a good enough price isn’t there?... No, she cannot be allowed to get away with what she did to those people. You can’t hear their pain Lizzie, you can’t hear their screams. I have to be the one to do it too