15 November 2016

Edward Scissorhands, 1990

Director Tim Burton's 'Edward Scissorhands' (1990) is a beautiful film, with a very recognisable titular character and a very memorable feeling of warmth and whimsy.  Burton worked with screenwriter Caroline Thompson and production designer Bo Welch to create a place that is as strange as it is wonderful.

Fig. 1 Poster
There is a section of the film before Edward is introduced, with Peg, an Avon representative, going from door to door, trying to sell makeup products. Peg inhabits a very colourful world, a 'cookie cutter' town, where every house looks the same, only painted a different colour. As Derek Malcolm, writing for the Guardian, comments; 'This is a world waiting for someone to astonish it with passionate unorthodoxy, and Edward is just the man to do it.' (Malcolm, 1991). This sequence at the beginning is just long enough to provide something solid with which to contrast Edward.

Fig. 2 The town and the mansion just outside
And contrasted he is; Peg, desperate for a sale, decides to try the out of place and out of time gothic mansion up at the edge of town . As seen in Fig. 3, In her matching lilac outfit, with her perfect hair, Peg stands out as she wanders through this building that looks as though it belongs in a German Expressionist film of a much earlier date. In his book 'World Cinema's 'Dialogues' With Hollywood' (2007), Paul Cooke describes 'Edward Scissorhands' as an 'overt echo' (Cooke, 2007) of Robert Wiene's 'Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari' (1920), one of the earliest, and certainly most well known, examples of German Expressionism in film. This building is wildly different from those in the town below, and Edward is set in the role of the outsider before we even see him. Bo Welch excels in his role as production designer, using set design to add practically to the fleshing out of the film's characters and the progression of the story and, perhaps most importantly, bringing Burton's fairy tale magic to life.

Fig. 3 Peg inside the mansion
The film is filled with absurdities, such as shrubs popping up where they hadn't been before. Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote that the 'Edward Scissorhands' has a 'fearless, defiant illogic' (Maslin, 1990). By saturating the world with little nonsenses, Burton is able to make several of the strange occurrences in the film seem as though they could be perfectly reasonable. Through this, the audience is able to keep up with the story without getting hung up on some strange prop or plot point, if only because something equally as absurd occurs shortly after.

Fig. 4 Edward
Fig. 5 The townspeople
Edward's appearance is strange; his wild hair, scarred, pale skin, and strange outfit set him apart even before you consider that he has scissors instead of hands. He is described by Malcolm as 'lonely and quizzical soul' (Malcolm, 1991). Edward's extreme exterior is in contrast to his gentle nature, but neither his shocking appearance or quiet sensitivity fit in with the town's residents. By exaggerating the similarities between the families living in the area, Burton can emphasise how different Edward is. Burton also uses features from the 1950s, the time in which consumerism was born, to poke fun at the desperation people feel to conform and be 'normal'. Having characters appear alien to the viewer by having them behave so similarly to each other as to appear absurd is an important technique in the film and Burton is able to make the 'normal' people seem just as strange as Edward.  As seen in Fig. 4 and Fig. 5, Edward and the townspeople look wildly different, however, it is worth noting that the film uses the same techniques to make Edward appear different, simplification and exaggeration, as it does to make the townspeople seem the same. In this way they are able to exist in the same world, with the viewer more able to suspend disbelief, or at the very least, embrace it.

Bibliography

Cooke, P (2007). World Cinema's 'Dialogues' With Hollywood. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan UK. [Online] At: https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=0CpaCwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=edward+scissorhands&ots=NPtRSYKw88&sig=9TFI5reFpPfDtUxDsOBS5fKLZoM#v=onepage&q&f=false (Accessed on 15.11.16)

Malcolm, D (1991). Edward Scissorhands At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/News_Story/Critic_Review/Guardian_review/0,,558617,00.html (Accessed on 15.11.16)

Maslin, J (1990). Review/Film; And So Handy Around The Garden At: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9C0CE2D81338F934A35751C1A966958260 (Accessed on 15.11.16)

Illustration List

Fig. 1 Poster
Burton, T (1990). Edward Scissorhands. [Film Still] At: http://www.impawards.com/1990/posters/edward_scissorhands_ver1.jpg
(Accessed on 15.11.16)

Fig. 2 The town and the mansion just outside
Burton, T (1990). Edward Scissorhands. [Film Still] At: http://static.boredpanda.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/movie-locations-then-now-edward-scissorhands-suburb-pictures-voodrew-1.jpg
(Accessed on 15.11.16)

Fig. 3 Peg inside the mansion
Burton, T (1990). Edward Scissorhands. [Film Still] At: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-nw69VRoml1w/VSN7D5tHxpI/AAAAAAAAAN4/HakltjOTiZc/s1600/Edward-Scissorhands-the-attic-resembles-sweeney-todd.png
(Accessed on 15.11.16)
Fig. 4 Edward
Burton, T (1990). Edward Scissorhands. [Film Still] At: http://digitalspyuk.cdnds.net/15/50/980x490/landscape-1449768828-johnny-depp-edward-scissorhands.jpg
(Accessed on 15.11.16)

Fig. 5 The townspeople
Burton, T (1990). Edward Scissorhands. [Film Still] At: http://510555444.r.lightningbase-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Screen-Shot-2014-06-19-at-14.33.05.jpg
(Accessed on 15.11.16)

2 comments:

  1. Excellent review, Ellie :)

    Just have another quick check in the referencing guide, as some of the elements need to be italicized.
    Looking forward to reading the next one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jackie, thank you :)

      I'll make sure to check everything against the guide in future.

      Delete