I was REALLY looking forward to watching this film! I'd been hearing about it for a long time from different sources but it never seemed to turn up at my cinemas near me, so when I found out we were using it as research I was extremely excited! The film really didn't disappoint me either, especially the context and visual effects.
I realised the director, Vincenzo Natali's, central concerns after reading the review from Kim Newman from Empire Online, that "like Mary Shelley, Natali is concerned with scientific ethics — intensified in the 21st century by corporate sponsorship and demand for profitable products from expensive research". This is incredibly appropriate as at the same period when Mary Shelley was writing about her concern for the direction science was taking, at the present time, we, the public, are also worried about the same thing. There are new discoveries all the time that, while benefiting mankind, are also calling to attention the potential moral blindness of the scientists in charge. The main worries at the moment are coming from the use of stem cells. These are potentially the cure for all things, they have unlimited potential, and it's this that worries so many, especially as they were previously using embryos to get the cells.
It's the difficult moral choice that our two scientists have to make, and it's this choice that means "sci-fi turns to horror as the personal failings of the creators and the created lead (inevitably) to violent clashes". The two scientists are named Elsa and Clive, they're known for creating a creature made from spliced cells of multiple organisms that have an enzyme that could benefit unlimited illnesses (much like stem cells today). Their next inevitable step was to combine these cells with human DNA and create something new with potentially more potent enzymes. Of course however, what should've been a step too far was created by the two of them because Elsa couldn't wait until they had permission, and Clive was also too curious to stop her. As you can see by the image below, he later tries to end what he believes was "a mistake"
The creature hatches from what looks like womb and is later named Dren. The fact that it isn't born normally like their previous specimens were is quite significant. Hatching is interpreted by Marina Warner as generating a "double valency; it implies the sudden emergence of a new being and this moves in contrary motion: Airborne (bird) or earthbound (reptile)... between winged creatures whose habitat encompasses the Heavens, and those condemned...to crawl on their bellies”. What's incredibly interesting is Dren has the features of both these creatures. She hatches with only two legs, struggling to manoeuvre with them and often stumbling and crawling but later develops the wings that allow her to fly in these heavens. Though the author is speaking about previous research into Judaeo-Christian related works, I believe this can be applied to Dren. She's a man made creature and because of this is born with the elements of condemned reptiles and blessed birds. It's interesting because these animals have god given gifts and flourish because of it, Dren has only what man has given her and perhaps due to humanity's greed for knowledge and improvement she has too much of both. Her gifts mean she has too much to contain and control and of course, this leads to their downfall: "the disaster everyone warned us about. A new species let loose on the world".
Not only is the contextual science side of the film interesting but also, the underlying message of family and the inappropriate relationships that can occur. Elsa and Clive are Dren's creators and assume the role of her parents, Elsa is more than happy to take the role of the mother as it's her DNA that's 'inside' Dren. What starts off as a normal family unit (despite Dren obviously not being human) becomes much more complicated as Dren becomes what would seem to be a teenager, and a sexually curious one too. She becomes infatuated with Clive as he begins to show her more attention which culminates in their having sex and being caught by Elsa in an incredibly awkward scene. Elsa, who has previously suffered from child abuse, struggles to deal with this and her relationship with Dren declines swiftly. One way to interpret this is Sigmund Freud's Oedipus complex. He believed that every child would be in love with the parent of the opposite sex and hate/want to kill the parent of the same sex. He believed that "being in love with the one parent and hating the other are among the essential constituents of the stock of physical impulses which is formed at that time". This is again seen later in the film when Dren unexpectedly changes sex, from female to male, and rapes Elsa and kills Clive as he tries to defend her.
I found this film to be such a great thrill ride! It made you feel repulsed and then sympathetic and finally fear towards Dren and I can't say there's many films that can do that and still pile on more subtexts and plots with the other characters to keep you interested. I can't wait to show everyone how horribly fascinating this film is!