Monday, 19 May 2014

Edward Scisorhands (1990) A Walk in American Suburbia

Directed by: Tim Burton
Drama, Fantasy
110 Minutes

Originaly written 2013 on Letterboxd

I really do have a soft spot for this film and I don't care anymore what people say. I really find this film beautiful, and perhaps it is because of how it has grew on me I cannot see any flaws in it. It is one of my cinema experiences that brought me closer to how beautiful cinema was when I was about 13-14 years old. I have seen it about 5 or 6 times since. I love everything. The expressionistic style, the classic Frankenstein-like story, the touching Danny Elfman musical score and the truly fascinating performance from Johnny Depp. It is here we see one of Depp's first best performances, and the start of what is now a long friendship between director and actor.

Edward Scissorhands may be considered to be overly camp in it's style and can be called very much ridiculous and unbelievable- but it is the fantasy of it all I love. It is a pure fantasy tale and that is exactly how it should be viewed. Of course it is absurd that a woman would find such a man and welcome him to her home. It is this beautiful gesture I find touching in a sentimental kind of way.

I also need to say how much I love the film's characters in all it's classic 50's way. Starting with the Avon Lady, who finds Edward was an excellent way to represent the America of the 50's, with door to door cosmetic sales starting to really kick off. Sh is a kind and caring person, who loves her daughter (and son), who seems to have some sympathy for the lonely person/invention she finds in the glum pointy castle. And the neighbors of Burbank (that's her neighborhood) are great. The stereotype of women is fleshed out here, which is very fun to watch as we see the women gossiping on the phone as the Avon lady drives down the street with a peculiar looking man in the passenger seat. Not to mention the wacky tall hair styles and fake nails. Oh and the spandex trousers are a must.

I won't ramble about the other characters, but we cannot leave out the titular character. Perhaps it was the time in my life that made me appeal and identify so much with the character.I time I was sick of bullying in school, and felt like an outcast. And that is the theme of the film- being an outcast. Edward Scissorhands is a character who is gentle, fragile naive and not fully educated to the ways of human life due to the untimely death of his inventor (played wonderfully by Vincent Price, Burton's hero). His character to me is one of my all time favourites due to how Depp portrays him so beautifully with the quirky walk nervous mouse-like voice and the desire to fit in. He is a freak to the society he is in, which is a metaphor for how are society casts those who are different aside. It is something you can look out your window and likely see. And I am not just referring to racial or religious groups.

The hands itself is an excellent metaphor for being out of touch, with him literally not being able to use his hands normally (which for Depp as said in interviews, was a challenge to get used to). In life when we meet and greet people, shaking hands is much a way of showing trust- it is something even business men do when transacting a deal. Edward is unable to touch- to feel- to be human and to interact.

The next thing with the scissors for hands is for how lethal they actually are, as we see there are several cuts on his face. Such a character could be brutal if angry, and easily kill/hurt others- even by accident which is shown in the film that just raises the sympathy more. However, Edward is a peaceful character- he wants to be gentle, kind and most of all, wants to become more human. As mentioned, Depp masterfully portrayed the character from his voice to his Chaplin-esque movement. I cannot help but relate to such a character.
Winona Ryder (Depp's at the time fiancee/girlfriend) is also a pleasant character in the film, who at first sees Edward as a freak, but soon begins to sympathise with him and his helplessness.

Tim Burton's style I fell in love with when I saw this,and while he is not that revered of a director, he is still a good one in my eyes (although his recent movies suck as we know). His visual storytelling is definitely his strong point, and wit his inheritance of German expressionism, his dark macabre style is wonderful. In the film we see a beautiful contrast between the suburbs of Burbank, and the castle of which Edward came from. The castle is a damp. glum, dark and quite miserable looking place, where we see our outcasted character. This style connotes Edward's exile and difference and heavily reflects the existence and indifference of suburban life, where cooking, cleaning and cosmetics, and 9 to 5 working is the normal way of life.

The houses of the suburbs are bright, colourful, clean and well preserved. here we see the American pride of home, with the freshly cut green grass, and spotless homes. The style is exaggerated beautifully and really does capture the time of the 50's.

As well as capturing the 50's in such an expressionistic and exaggerated way, Danny Elfman's musical score accompanies the lavish cinematography. My favourite score is the Ice Dance, which I am sure people who like the film are familiar of. It is just beautiful to here, and is still one of Danny Elfman's greatest works.

I have almost went without mentioning another aspect of the titular character's journey in learning- love. This is surely an aspect that people largely dislike about the film and find downright cheesy and unrelatable, but this is one of the first films that almost had me in tears, with Ryder saying "hold me" with a helpless and heart-wrenched reply of "I can't". This scene displays an outcast, helpless and lost in the new society that he has been, with hesitation, accepted to. The suburban America we see depicted is one unwelcoming of outsiders, and ones who simply want to live quintessentially, without change to their living in anyway. It is a beautiful contrast when we see Edward walking through the suburbs.

It is easy to see the film has grown on me, and I cannot help but love it. I loved seeing this freak character trying to be brought into society, but we see he is not of morals yet- he is unaware of such things. He is used by Ryder's character's boyfriend to break in to a house, but he is unaware of what he is doing. He is innocent, and just trying to fit in. This can also be seen as Burton showing peer pressure. The film is very much about his life growing up in Burbank, which explains the hyper-reality we see. Edward Scissorhands may not be as artistic as a Kubrick or Kurosawa film, nor is exactly an important film in history, but it is a film full of passion from its creators and crew, and is a wonderful tale that brings you into a beautiful fantasy realm. A story of a peculiar, lonely and inquisitive character, who learns that fitting into society is not easy. 



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