Rudolf Frecska and Kornél Mundruczó in Tender Son - The Frankenstein ProjectTender Son – The Frankenstein Project (Szelíd Teremtés – A Frankenstein-terv) is an apparent homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, with many similar elements at its core. However, the experimental monster has been replaced by a lonely 17-year-old boy with similar faults and desires.

As a child, a boy (Rudolf Frecska) was abandoned by his parents to an orphanage. Now grown up and escaped from his institution, he wanders into a casting session for a film, not knowing that the director (Kornél Mundruczó) is the father who deserted him so many years ago. Instinctively drawn to the young man’s expressionless features, the director hands the boy a camera and instructs him to shoot his own screen test. Since he lost any sense of normal human morality or feeling long ago, the experiment ends in the strangulation of his co-star. The boy escapes out the window and disappears into the night. But this accidental serial killer harbours no evil intentions; all he ever wanted was to be loved.

The style of the film is very subdued. The camera does not move much, there are numerous medium shots and close-ups, and it sometimes holds a shot a second too long. Furthermore, the film is very monochromatic with various hues of grey and the occasional touch of red. Used in the traditional manner, the appearance of red signifies some action by the boy in this dull world that’s causing harm. One of the more intriguing moments shows the director brush snow over a blood pool to hide the more menacing aspect of the scene he’s come across.

Frecska delivers an appropriately monotone performance. He remains expressionless in every scene regardless of his actions or those of the people around him. His voice occasionally changes tone, but that is the only indication he ever experiences any emotion. As the mother, Lili Monori appears hopelessly irritated with everything around her. She looks at everything with apathy and disgust, seeking the quickest solution to any situation. Mundruczó is pulling double duty as an actor and the film’s director, but he appears to strike a balance. His character is less cold, but still fails to react strongly to any of the murders. In fact, most of his dealings regarding his estranged son seem curious.

As parents, neither is willing to turn in the son they abandoned years ago. Instead, they both attempt to make up for their previous mistakes by trying to improve his life in some way – the mother arranges a marriage (so he’ll be taken care of) and the father offers sanctuary (so he’ll be unable to hurt more innocents). The boy arrived seeking family, but his rage and disconnectedness makes it impossible to achieve any form of normalcy.

Thus the narrative’s kinship with Frankenstein – the ability to recognize the way things should be, but the inability to obtain it; and guardians that recognize the errors of their creation and try to repair the situation.

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