There is a vast number of versions and remakes on R. L. Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, 1886. But the two are have appeared to be the most impressive for me are the following: a very close remake – “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, 1985, filmed in the USSR and another one – though far from the plot, but still – related to the same subject “Fight Club”, 1999. And as we can see, every person has an alter ego that may at any time show the dark side of his soul.
The novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, published in 1886, was bound to popularity. Just like in “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, it expressed doubts about the prospects of scientific progress, namely – experiments on human nature. And as for the depth of the images of this nature Stevenson stepped far beyond his contemporaries, opting for traditional Victorian England cocktail of moral and national values, and anticipated the ideology of modernism. To make a long story short, “Jekyll and Hyde” was incredibly relevant and, therefore, has become a cult.
The story tells us about Dr. Jekyll – a well-respected man and another man who is not so much appreciated by the society – Mr. Hyde. In a mysterious way Mr. Hyde is very often seen in Dr. Jekyll’s home where everyone is ordered to give him good reception. Finally, Mr. Hyde kills Dr. Jekyll and it turns out that he was his alter ego.
The first movie that was chosen has the same name – “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and was filmed in Soviet Union by a director Alexander Orlov. The plot of the movie is very close to the text.
The second movie is ”Fight Club” – David Fincher’s movie based on Chuck Palahniuk’s bestseller. It is a story about an office worker who meets a man, who is absolutely opposite and together they start a fight club which later grows into a project called ”Mayhem”. There is also a woman involved in the story. At the end we find out that the main character’s new acquaintance is his alter ego and he kills him managing to stay alive himself.
Soviet cinema has always been famous for its screen adaptations of famous literary works. And the version of ”Jekyll and Hyde” is one of them without any doubt.
The film very well depicts how Dr. Jekyll, who survived the horrors of war, does not want to expose his negative side and comes up with a means to separate good and evil in himself. He starts to use the drug, and evil begins to master it, the doctor cannot control himself anymore.
In my opinion, Stevenson wrote a very topical work on the problem of addiction, even when the drugs were not so common. Foreign films were trying to show it, but the Soviet one really succeeded. This is the best film adaptation of Stevenson story. There have been attempts to make a movie based on this book in America, but the Soviet film, even with no special effects, turned out to be much better.
Actors have shown images in a very expressive way. Innocentii Smoktunovskii is a very talented actor, and in this film he was not just playing the doctor, he was living the life of that character. In ”Fight Club”, the actors flowed suit: Brad Pitt is gorgeous in the form of an outrageous pal who trades in illicits affairs, and Edward Norton is incomparable in the form of a simple worker in the company
Musical accompaniment in the Soviet film plunges the viewer into a dark, dank and horrific 19th-century London, where the most unpleasant trouble may await around the corner. And there wanders Mr. Hyde, a terrible man, and a cheerful and balanced Dr. Jekyll (played by a prominent Russian actor Innokentii Smoktunovskii). By the way, in ”Fight Club”, the main character was not so cheerful and is more monotonous than balanced.
Alexander Orlov did a good job keeping very close to the original text and he has managed to penetrate deeply into the soul of Dr. Jekyll. It seemed to me that he wanted to justify his actions. But man cannot justify himself. And so we define the punishment for sins by ourselves.
Even thought the film is very close to the original text, we can still assume that the creation by director Alexander Orlov is an independent, unique piece. This is evidenced by the phrase "based on Stevenson's" in the credits, and that the background to London of the 19th century is accompanied by the soundtrack in the style of new wave with a typical bit of 80s. Stevenson’s reality and Orlov’s reality talk about the same Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: like the same thing, but in reality there is something fundamentally different.
What is this reality made by Orlov about? First of all, we can see strong emphasis on the word strange in the title. There are stone, or distorted fearing faces of characters, dark and depressing tone, terse dialogue and illogical dialogs. ”Figth Club”, on the other hand, sometimes creates an impression of a movie with some jokes and even certain irresponsibility. Orlov’s ”Jekyll and Hyde” does not just look sinister, it is mesmerizing and leads us into a trance – like a drug in the dream that the protagonist is going through. In principle, it all seems right: formally, a detective story gets along better with gothic atmosphere and suspense.
In general, the pattern recreates the atmosphere of the dark side of the human soul. But is there anything more in this movie that is worth applauding? Honestly, the plot is quite schematic and a couple of interesting, juicy turns are definitely lacking. And even though the ingenial Innocentii Smoktunovskii looks very charismatic – other characters should have been revived as well.
”Fight Club” is not based on the plot of the original story, however it reveals the main points of it: first of all, of course, talking about split personalities, and showing people’s alter ego as it is.
Tyler Durden lives in each of us, you just have to get the key, open the cage and let the beast out. Monster, a man without a past, whose motto is self-destruction, a demon in the flesh, denies the system: he is a lustful womanizer and just a cool guy. Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde is shown as an absolutely disgusting man despised in society. Tyler Durden, on the other hand, does not appear to be so negative: he is even loved by women.
Another similarity that I have found can be seen between the characters of Mr. Utterson from the original story and Marla Singer from ”Fight Club”. As we remember from the book, Mr. Utterson was involed in this outrageous story and became a puzzled witness of constant transformations of Jekyll into Hyde. The same with Marla, who was perplexed by the unexplainable behavior of the person she was dating not knowing who he is: his good self or his bad self.
In the book, Dr. Jekyll was killed by his alter ego – Mr. Hyde. In ”Fight Club”, however, the main character manages to kill his alter ego – Tyler Durden – and take control in his hands. But still, the damage done by Tyler will be difficult to mend, so there is still s lot of impact left from him.
One of the possible links between ”Jekyll and Hyde” and ”Fight Club” (that I have noitced) is the similar sounding between the name Jekyll in the original book and Jack – the character from journals in ”Fight Club”. We have to admit that there lives Jack in each of us, being a typical middle-class person, swallowed by circumstances, with no possibility to escape from the dullness of everyday life.
Can you call Tyler a man who can be trusted? Is he worth following? Yes and no. Well, at least Tyler is a free man and freedom seems so desired by most of us. No matter who you are, but if you're free, others will be jealous.
So, as we could see, both works – the Soviet ”Jekyll and Hyde” film and ”Fight Club” – narrate about the deep demons of the human soul. They are similar in the way of making it clear that those alter egos are not the ones to trust, but ”Fight Club” leaves more hope to being able to fight with your inner bad self. Also, ”Fight Club” is closer to modern reality. However, we can be sure that the issues brought up in ”Fight Club” will be up-to-date in any century. This is evidenced by the fact that in ”Fight Club” we can clearly see the topic of nihilism being developed, which was also brought up back in 1862 by Turgenev in his ”Fathers and Sons”.