We’ve been hearing about this project since 2014, when it was titled A Storm In The Stars – but now we finally have the first image from the newly monikered Mary Shelley, with Elle Fanning in the title role, as it’s packaged for sale at the Berlin Film Festival. The gothic biographical drama looks set to unspool the early years of one of Britain’s most famous authors, in a surprisingly timely story of philosophy, feminism, and tragedy.
Directed by Saudi Arabia’s first female film director, Haifaa al-Mansour, Mary Shelley casts Elle Fanning as the young author – before she found fame by penning Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus, in 1818. Shelley’s life was one filled with tragedy – such that it should make any cinematic telling of the tale riveting and moving. She was the daughter of the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who died while her daughter was in infancy – leaving her to be raised by her political philosopher father, William Godwin.
Young Mary had a contentious relationship with her eventual stepmother, and began a relationship with poet Percy Shelley, whom she met through her father. The couple departed for travels through Europe and returned, two years later, when Mary was pregnant. Their daughter arrived prematurely, however, and ultimately died – precipitating a period of great difficulty for the couple, who found themselves weighed down with sizeable debt. Shelley’s first wife also committed suicide, before Percy and Mary married in 1816.
Mary Shelley’s iconic work, Frankenstein, was famously conceived during a Swiss vacation with a group of friends that included Lord Byron – another giant of British literature. The Shelleys would suffer the deaths of two more children, before their surviving son, Percy, arrived. Mary Shelley’s husband drowned in 1822, however, and Mary herself eventually succumbed to a brain tumour, in 1851.
The first image released from the film would seem to indicate an emphasis on the relationship between Mary Shelley’s literary work and the loss of her mother – as the young woman is seen seated beside her mother’s tomb, seeking inspiration. The tone of the image bodes very well for the finished work – capturing, as it does, the gothic atmosphere that imbues both Mary Shelley’s own story, and the beautiful work she produced.
Joining Elle Fanning in the cast are Douglas Booth as Percy Shelley, Stephen Dillane as William Godwin, Maisie Williams, Bel Powley, Joanna Frogatt and Tom Sturridge. Assuming that a sale is made at the Berlin Film Festival, we should be hearing a release date for Mary Shelley very soon.