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Tim Burton

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Cinema Review: Director Tim Burton

Tim Burton is one of the most unique visionary directors in Hollywood, defining a new genre of film with his twisted imagination. Besides the similarity of having been made by the same director, there are also many other similarities between his films. For example, his film style is able to be seen clearly throughout the films, Edward Scissorhands (1991), Corpse Bride (2005) and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). All three of these movies showing Burton’s easily identifiable film style. The characteristics that are similar across these films are the flashbacks, the actors and actresses, the characters, the use of costume, makeup and lighting. Similarities can also be seen through the themes and genres including, German Expression and fantasy. Burton incorporates characters in his films that no one would encounter in real life, such as you would never find a ghost who wants to marry a human in real life or someone who is able to chop hedges with his scissorhands. His films are characteristically quirky and unusual, however somehow making it

relatable and identifiable which make them so popular with the audience.

One style that Tim Burton’s films are strongly influenced is the German Expressionism codes and conventions. This foreign film style is an artistic genre that originated in Europe in the 1920s and is broadly defined as the rejection of Western conventions (Darsa, 2013). The artist’s impression of reality is widely distorted for emotional effect. The elements of this particular film style may involve lighting that employs extreme contrasts of light and dark therefore making dramatic shadows in the film. The film style also concentrates on mirrors, glass and other reflective surfaces. German Expressionist film also gave human characteristics and human behaviour to nonhuman objects. Distorted shapes and lines in set design were used and all of these film styles were notable for their dark themes of insanity, horror, death and fatality which are translated through the film’s narrative and the mise-en-scene (Expressionism, 2012).

Edward Scissorhands is about a nearly complete young man named Edward who tries to have a normal life as an ordinary person. In the film, the castle that is Edward’s home is definitely influenced by German Expressionism. The windows, beams and pillars are broken and old suggesting that Edward is alone and he is secluded from the rest of the world since the place where he lives is dangerous and threatening. The broken windows also shows the characteristic of distorted shapes and lines that German Expressionist film often had to suggest a warped perspective of the world. The set of the film also include with chiaroscuro lighting which contrasted the lighting between light and dark which was often used in German Expressionism film. In Edward Scissorhands the lighting changes are between Edward’s home and the rest of the town which is again showing the separation that Edward has with the town. Furthermore, the costumes style is also very gothic (German Expressionism, 2012). For example, Edward’s costume is black and features several metal buckles and his makeup consists of a pale face with dark eye makeup and messy hair which is reminiscent of 1920’s horror films. The music and audio that are in the movie is also rather gothic influenced which creates the feeling to the viewers of mystery and horror. All these gothic elements further show that German Expressionism did influence this film (Imaginary Cinema, n.d.).

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is also seen to be influenced by the film style German Expressionism. Sweeney Todd is about Benjamin Barker who is accused of a crime he did not commit and after 15 years, he comes back with a new identity. With his new name, Sweeney Todd seeks out revenge against the Judge who accused him of the crime (Critical Outcast, 2007). Tim Burton used German Expressionism throughout the entire movie by using low key lighting. This type of lighting was always used to show the conflict, mysterious part of the characters or to show the sadness and how disappointed the character was. The setting in the movie is also gothic styled, by the buildings and the shops that are seen. Most part of the movie is in black and white and streets are in darker shades (German Expressionism, 2012).

In the final example, Corpse Bride, about Victor Van Dort and Victoria Everglot that is being forced into marriage which seems to be going smoothly. Victor puts the ring on what looks like a branch when he practices his vows. The branch ends up being the finger of a deceased bride Emily, who now thinks they are married. He is then dragged to the Land of the Dead where it is nearly impossible to return, meaning Victor needs to choose between risking Victoria’s life or giving up his own. This film is influenced by German Expressionism as the main character does not fit in the society that he is in. In the Land of the Living, the buildings all have sharp angles; all of them are cold and have a shadowy effect to them, like German expressionist films.

There is also many more similarities in Tim Burton films, for example the flashbacks that are used. In the Corpse Bride, Emily, the deceased bride sings about her nasty death. In Sweeney Todd, Sweeny remember his family before they were taken away from him and in Edward Scissorhands the film has numerous flashbacks throughout the film of the Inventor who made Edward. Tim Burton uses the flashbacks to tell the story in a different way and revealing more information to the audience about the characters in the films. Another similarity across Tim Burton film is the same actors and actresses that are used. In each of the three examples Johnny Depp is seen and Helena Bonham-Carter is seen in Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd.

Lastly, the characters are also very similar in each of the films. For example, in most of Tim Burton’s films there is a skittish and weird character that never really fits into the world that they live in. In Edward Scissorhands, Edward is seen as the outcast, living in the castle alone and when he walks through the town, he is judged by everyone who sees him because he is different. In Sweeney Todd, Sweeney is the outcast who is convicted on a crime and then taken away from his family and in Corpse Bride; Victor Van Dort is the skittish and weird outcast as he doesn’t fit into the world that he is in (Woerner, 2012).

Burton’s films are all very similar by having the same themes, genres and ideas across each of his films. This is evident in Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. All three films have been influenced by German Expressionism. It can also been seen that they are similar by having small flashbacks, the same actors and actresses and the characters have a similar part in the story. Overall, a ‘Tim Burton’ film is unforgettably quirky and unusual somehow making them relatable. As said by Burton himself, “One person’s crazyness is another person’s reality”.

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