The 1920 silent film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde directed by John S. Robertson and starring John Barrymore exemplifies science fiction and gothic terror genre conventions such as reason taken to the extremes, imprisoning spaces, and alter egos. Set in the Victorian era, Dr. Jekyll naively seeks to separate the two natures of man into distinct bodies. In the story, the laboratory serves as a home to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because it is the only location that knows and houses both identities. In line with Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Thesis V “The Monster Polices the Border of the Possible,” the laboratory represents a monstrous pursuit of forbidden knowledge that exceeds natural boundaries. The limited access to the laboratory signifies a boundary between the outside world and the scientific world, the normal and the monstrous. Additionally, the physical walls and locked doors of the laboratory act as a veil, cloaking Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s secrets from notice by others. Inside the laboratory, the long mirror emphasizes the theme of dual identities, and the cluttered mis-en-scene, a wall full of chemical containers and bottles, symbolizes the façade of scientific objectivity. Within the film, the laboratory becomes a heterotopia, a space where Dr. Jekyll locks himself from the outside world to pursue scientific knowledge that goes against societal norms. The space of the laboratory witnesses the scientific separation and abject birth of Mr. Hyde from Dr. Jekyll. Moreover, the consequences of science and Dr. Jekyll’s illicit endeavors in the laboratory ultimately consume both his and Mr. Hyde’s intertwined lives. Consequently, the laboratory is monstrous because the space perverts the idea of a home and corrupts Dr. Jekyll’s reputation as a professional man. The significance of Dr. Jekyll entering from the front door and leaving through the backdoor as Mr. Hyde demonstrates the monstrous and transformative nature of the laboratory setting.
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