The premise of Ken Russell's Gothic is a fascinating one - Taking place in 1816, Percy Shelly and his soon-to-be wife Mary, accompanied by her sister, Claire, travel to the home of exiled writer Lord Byron. When they arrive, the three of them, along with Byron and his biographer, conjure up their greatest fears in the form of ghost stories, using the assistance of drugs to exacerabete their imaginations. Re-creating the fateful story of two literary giants in Mary Shelley and Lord Byron, Ken Russell's Gothic is another one of the filmmaker's subversive biopic-type films that puts a heavy emphasis on intoxicating visuals and atmosphere. LIke most of Russell's work, Gothic is uncompromising in its desire to throw conventional narrative out the window, opting instead for a bombastic visual style full of symbolism and surrealistic flourishes. What makes Gothic more accessible than many of these other films is the subject matter - a horror film - that sees all of these characers drug-induced nightmares come to life on screen. Gothic is full of grotesquely beautiful imagery that will shock and awe but what really makes the film fascinating is Russell's thematic intentions revolving around art and creation. Russell uses the ghost story of Gothic as a metaphor for the creative process, creating a unique perspective on what it means to create art, and in doing so, captures how deeply personal that can be. Mary is the closest thing to a central character in Gothic and her ability to confront her fear in the end is what leads her to artistic breakthrough. Challenging, strange, and downright outlandish, Ken Russell's Gothic is a film that is bound to frustrate most viewers but it's also a unique and fascinating biopic that challenges the idea of creating art.
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