Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Unit 2: Space - Review - Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Figure 1. Edward Scissorhands Poster Art

Tim Burtons Highly acclaimed Edward Scissor Hands does not disappoint. Baby faced Johnny Depp plays the role of the cultural “Freak” Edward without limitation. Each onscreen experience holds warrant for any adolescent teen trying to find their place in a culture set in its ways. One cannot help but liken the appearance of Edward to the works of Robert Wiene – Namely the gothic Cesare the Somnambulist from the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

•Directed by: Tim Burton
•Written by: Tim Burton & Caroline Thompson
•Cast: Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands, Winona Ryder as Kim, Dianne West as Peg, Anthony Michael Hall as Jim, Kathy Baker as Joyce & Robert Olivery as Kevin.
•Genre: Drama, Romance, Science Fiction & Fantasy
•Duration: 105 Minutes (aprox)

Figure 2. "I guess it would have to start with scissors"

It is 1990; the Reagan era has just ended reigning in a whole new day of cultural principles and economic prosperity. Cheaper outlets of commercial media (namely, American Independent Cinema and New Queer Cinema) were on the rise exploring new entertainment of all kinds... And so enters Tim Burton, filmographer of hit films “Beetlejuice” & “Batman” which premiered to accolades in 1989. Burton grew up a social misfit and horror fanatic with a wealth of knowledge & experience in cultural conformism, these elements are clear as day in “Edward Scissorhands” as blogger Sarah Jay observes:

“Juxtaposing Gothic mansions against the pastel-hued houses of suburbia, Tim Burton’s films depict the polarized extremes of society. Existing within this surreal, heightened reality, Burton’s central characters are the elements of subversion that infiltrate a stiflingly conservative world.” (Jay: 2008)
Everything appears traditional in the “Scissorhands” suburbia but there is vibrancy, something that forces one to say to themselves over and over again “this isn’t real” a notion only realised with impactful reminders strongly derived from the films visual extremes. Burton’s decision to drive the chasm of conformity in contrast with the social 1990’s “Elephant Man” (or Freak) is not without its political message or social vendetta.

Figure 3. "Those are your hands? Those are your hands..."

The socially detached Edward is loyal and emotionally submissive but good truths get turned into bad lies falling like a house of cards relaying blame after blame on the misunderstood Scissorhands. One could not help but feel that the film’s most intriguing tragedy is the ultimate loss of a father figure (namely the machinist who created Edward). One could argue that this is likened to the childhood effects of parental abandonment as Sam Hatch of Culture Dogs observes:

“Where the film truly succeeds (whether intentionally or not), is the beautifully detailed exploration on how a young man becomes a socially awkward adult when 'abandoned' by a father. In Edward's case, this emotional damage is also brilliantly reflected in the flesh, as he is literally left 'incomplete' by his father's absence.” (Hatch: Unknown)
The incompetent Edward was not complete, he was taught the basics (i.e. how to love, how to laugh, etc) but this did not expedite his experience. Edward was not taught the perils of love, the hardships of life or the right to think for himself. As Edward descends into chaos no one is directing him, they are merely blaming him without asking him anything. The end result was a lynching as was Frankenstein’s monster, the townsfolk had grievances and it was just easier to blame the misfit.

Figure 4. “Hold me....” “I can’t....”

One could argue that Tim Burton’s assembly of scissorhands is to in part alienate his ability to touch or connect with another being. This could be attributed to Burtons own view of his life growing up, detached from any and everything –a social outcast (or Geek). Even the production design of Scissorhands suburbia is alienating, ultimately showing no true connection between anybody or anything with each family locked away in their own colourful spaces. This isolation was Burton’s adolescence as much as Edwards, Authors Lauren. M, E. Goodlad & Michael Bibbly observes:

“His scissorhands mark an alienation from others that is fundamental to the films depiction of adolescent identity: to be is to cut & to be cut.” (Lauren, Goodlad & Bibbly, 2007:277)
The interiors of Burton’s rendition of suburbia are thoughtful but vacant, dashed as props in a furniture catalogue; the colours of the rooms distract the viewer to the underline seclusion. One could argue that Burton’s thoughts of Isolation were only to italicise the importance of the characters on screen at any point, in any situation (i.e. the backgrounds are not as important as the characters or the story being told).


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Edward Scissorhands Poster Art. (com) [Online image]. At: http://www.joblo.com/posters/images/full/1990-edward-scissorhands-poster2.jpg (Accessed on:15/11/11)

Figure 2. I guess it would have to start with scissors (com) [Online image]. At: https://homemcr.org/app/uploads/2012/09/Edward-Scissorhands-3-e1348146904422-940x460.png
(Accessed on:15/11/11)

Figure 3. Those are your hands? Those are your hands... (com) [Online image]. At:
http://images.mentalfloss.com/sites/default/files/styles/mf_image_3x2/public/scissorhands_primary.jpg?itok=I3ASjcWL&resize=1100x740 (Accessed on:15/11/11)

Figure 4. Get out of here you freak (com) [Online image]. At:
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_CAXRcebhcYs/SvW-THcrTjI/AAAAAAAAEUI/n_GBlUY2JPI/s400/EdwardMitDenScherenhaenden_scene_20.jpg (Accessed on:15/11/11)



Jay, Sarah. (2011) Tim Burton & 1950’s America At: http://sarahjay.wordpress.com/ (Accessed on: 15/11/11)

Ebert, Roger. (1986) Young Sam’s Favourite Films of All Time At: http://www.wwuh.org/program/culturedogs/Reviews/Sam%20Reviews/edward.htm
(Accessed on: 15/11/11)

M. Lauren, E. Goodlad & Bibbly. Michael. (2007) Goth: Undead Subculture. 3rd Edition, Printed in the USA

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