Gods and Monsters

Director: Bill Condon
Screenwriters: Bill Condon

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


Bill Condon brings to the screen the life of James Whale, the famed director of the old Frankenstein movies, in this poignant portrait of a man and artist in the winter of his life. James may be old, but he has a glint in his eye for mischief. He has long given up his career, and his health is failing terribly, but he still succumbs to a fascination for the new yard boy. Clayton, an ex-marine living in a trailer park, is a gardener by trade but a drifter in spirit. James coaxes him into modeling, triggering an unexpected outpouring of memories, some of them verbal, others in the form of visions. They will draw these two unlikely men into a tender relationship that has surprising importance for both.

Ian McKellen is unequivocally brilliant in the lead role. With every gesture, every subtle nuance, he brings James to life. Brandon Fraser’s Clayton is the perfect counterpoint to James’s “questionable” sexuality. He is not repulsed but not exactly trusting, either. It is people like Clayton (and the stoic housekeeper, played by Lynn Redgrave) who offer Whale the very inspiration for his creations, his beloved monsters. They are the ones who don’t fit in, metaphors for those marginalized by society. Condon cleverly lets you into the psyche of this artist, but he also opens the door for a more universal theme. In the right light and when judged by those who do not understand us, we may all look a little like monsters.

Bill Condon, Director
Bill Condon was born in New York City. After studying philosophy at Columbia University, he wrote for various film publications. He cowrote the cult movies Strange Behavior and Strange Invaders, then made his directorial debut with Sister Sister, starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Eric Stoltz. He has since written and/or directed several feature and television films, including White Lie and the black comedy Dead in the Water. In 1992 he received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America Association

— John Cooper

Screening Details

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