Tender Son - The Frankenstein Project

Kornel Mundruczo

BY Robert BellPublished Sep 16, 2010

Something consistent in the works of Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo is a feeling of incompletion. While his films have gravitated more towards a sense of cohesion since 2002's Pleasant Days (a desultory, but curious, examination of immediate gratification and base self-satisfaction), there's still something missing that keeps them from being great, even though there is a sense that he'll get it right somewhere down the road.

His modern take on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Tender Son has a similar feeling of piecemeal assembly, but some of the imagery and individual moments hold surprising power, making the exercise a curious and intriguing failure, but a failure nonetheless.

Interpreting the source material in the context of the real world, this allegory of monstrosity as a result of parental neglect sees abandoned son Rudolf (Rudolf Frecksa) leaving an institution and returning home where auditions are being held for an adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo. Deciding to audition, his difference is revealed when the director (Kornel Mundruczo) asks him to demonstrate emotion (something challenging for a true sociopath), which then leads to a killing rampage.

How the director instinctively develops a curiosity for this random boy is unconvincing, as are the coincidences and awkward developments leading to his romantic involvement with a random girl (Kitty Csikos) living with his mother (Lili Monori). In fact, these plot developments stem mainly out of a necessary adherence to the source material for outcome rather than anything particularly organic — no one converses realistically or applies real world logic to their decisions.

Despite these thematic and structural flaws, some of the stark photography and the use of an abandoned, dilapidated mansion as a locale are quite breathtaking and aesthetically compelling. Even a couple of scenes, such as one where Rudolf is asked to film a young actress forced to convince him of her love, stand out as uniquely disturbing and indicative of a talent only partially tapped. It's just a shame that the sum of these parts is a bit of a mess.

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