Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Film Review: Edward Scissorhands

Fig 1: Film Poster for "Edward Scissorhands"
Edward Scissorhands was a Tim Burton film made in 1990. Considered one of Burton's greatest films, it stars Johnny Depp as the titular character and Winona Ryder as Kim, the daughter of the suburban family that take Edward in. The film is a deconstruction of the "American Dream", of how consummerism offers a sense of individuality by making everyone follow the same rules and trends. The opposition of the common movie stereotype of white is good, black is evil is flipped in the film, with the gothic mansion on a hill where Edward lives quite happily before the events of the film and the suburburn town below being a source of evil due to consummerism and the lust of indivituality the townspeople have towards Edward.
"Certainly, Burton's modern fairytale has an almost palpably personal feel: it is told gently, subtly and with infinite sympathy for an outsider who charms the locals but then inadvertently arouses their baser instincts."- (Marc Lee, The Telegraph, ref: 30/11) Here Lee describes the emotive reasons for Edward and the locals of the Suburbs and how it changes from an innocent interest of the newcomer only to change to greed when they realise how they can use him to their own advantages. 

At the start of the film, it shows a snowy scene, around christmas time of the main town, before the camera leads into a bedroom of a young girl and her grandma who begins to tell a story of Edward Scissorhands.
From there the story shifts to Edward, an innocent and unique man, who is forced to live in a community in the Suburbs when the make up specialist, Peg Boggs, goes to the mansion on the hill just outside of the Community below looking for new clients for her products. Upon finding Edward she decides that it is for the best that she takes him with her, and while its all fine and well at the beginning due to Edwards hands being intriging to the fellow neighbours of the Boggs' household. They then progress to turn on him after consuming his talents in sculpting through their hedges, dogs and their hair. As the year goes by, Edward goes from rags to riches, being a guest on a tv show from all his work in the sub-urbs, to starting to run his own hair salon. However, before the salon is open for business, Edward is forced along with Kim, her boyfriend, Jim, and their friends to steal from Jim's parent's house. Edward's scissor like hands being able to lock pick the door giving the thieves easy access. An alarm is tripped, trapping Edward inside while the others flee despite Kim's protests of trying to save him. The police come to the house, arrest Edward and send him off with a warning when they realise that he isnt able to understand entirely the situation he was in. From then on the town is much more hostile to him, wary of what awful thing he'll do next. On Christmas day the Boggs family plan a Christmas party for the town, even though it is obvious that no one would come because of Edward. Kim notices that it's started to snow outside, a very rare occurance in the Sub-urbs, and upon entering the garden she sees that its none other than Edward making an ice sculpture, the chippings from it floating around her as she comes in closer. A sudden noise ruins the peace and Edward turns from sculpting, his hands scrapping Kim's wrist, leaving deep cut marks, Jim sees this and accuses him of assault, bullying Edward to leave the town despite Kim's pleas not to. Edward flees horrified and Kim tells her boyfriend whats what, dumping him before going off to search for the missing man. While the search is going on, Jim and his friend starts to drink heavily in his van, and then proceeds to drive around the neighbourhood looking for Edward, almost running over Kim's younger brother, Kevin who was returning home from a friends house. Edward saves him but in his act of kindness he accidently cuts up the boys face with his hands, the neighbours see this and are outraged.
Fig 2: Screenshot Displaying the Suburbs and the Castle on the hill rendered in Matte Painting

The Sub-urban lifestyle proves too much for Edward, seeming more like a nightmare to him when compared to his previous life up in a European Gothic mansion high on the hillside. So he runs from the town back up to his origin, with a raging mob, with Kim ahead of them, storming up behind him. Kim finds him in the attic and finally embraces him, sorry of the town and their corruption of his talents. Jim then appears, wanting Edward dead for taking his girl. However it is Edward who is victorious as Jim falls from the roof window to his death. Kim then says a tearful goodbye to Edward before persuading the other townsfolk that both Jim and Edward perished in the struggle. The folk of the Sub-Urb leave and the characters are back were they started at the beginning of the film.
The movie cuts back to the Grandmother and Granddaughter. The girl asks the old woman how she knows of this story and she reveals that she is Kim. The young girl then enquires if she as ever seen Edward again to which the old lady replies no as she didnt want to see the man with her looking older and him staying the same due to being a science experiment. The film then pans the front garden of the mansion, just like it did in the beginning, panning inside the house until it shows Edward making another ice sculpture of a young Kim.

Fig 3: Screenshot of Edward and Kim embrassing after the ordeal they went through in the Suburban

Production design is a statement piece for a Burton film, and Edward Scissorhands is a great example of that. With Bo Welch as the production designer, who work on the film Beetlejuice, the film is able to display the differences of the Suburban lifestyle and look to the mansion on the hill. With the sub-urbs being a colourful, pastel houses and the gothic mansion on the top of the hill that looks like it was set in a completely different part of the world from the 1950's American-styled town below.
"...with production design by Bo Welch and cinematography by Stefan Czapsky, it involves bright colours in unlikely combinations, (for instance, a lavender-suited Avon lady driving a dandelion-yellow car) and fashionably ridiculous late-1950's artifacts placed prominently throughout the characters' bunkerlike homes. On the lawns of these houses, more and more of Edwards's singular topiaries begin to appear" (Janet Maslin, The New York Times ref:30/11)
The camera angles in the film are the standard, tracking, panning at high, low and establishing angles, however there are points in the film where the camera takes on the point of view of a security camera placed in the corner of the room, like at Jim's parents house when it was raided and Edward gets trapped inside. The way that shot is set, with a fish-eyed lens distorting the scene in an arching manner immerses the viewer in the fact that Edward is trapped in the room with no possible escape, completely helpless and alone in that situation. The costume design in the film fits in with the 50's America theme that is prominant through-out the film.

One of the main weaknesses of the film however, according to Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly (referenced on 30/11) is that the film shares a narrative weakness of Burton's other films, emphasised by the fact that in this film he is trying to create a rounded, emotional story, that the faults in the narrative appear much more obvious. Gleiberman states that the film didnt take a plot point involving the relationship of Edward and Kim and the conflict between her boyfriend. Not going down the root that fairy-tales usually go for that results in a fight over the girl in white. He laments that the film just didn't turn dark enough as a result of Burton trying to not make the movie disturbing for children. Overall he feels as though, while the characters have depth, the story doesn't, it has chances to get its hands dirty yet pulls back, exspecially for the ending.

The way the film drifts back from the story being told to flashbacks to the scienctist who made Edward as a way of making the perfect human, was well played, there was enough to get a sense that Edward respecting the old man as a paternal figure while the scienctist treated him like his son, reading to him what it means to be human and poetry with pure joy as Edward listens. There were enough of these scenes throughout the movie and well spaced as to not be confusing while being able to supply backstory to Edward's origins in the mansion on the hillside.

Overall the film is well acted, with wonderful set design that establishes 1950's America and the boom of consummerism well. While some viewers might have some issues have with how Burton doesnt push the film to be a little bit more darker, exspecially at the climax. The depth of the characters and how you see all the featured neighbours go from friendly to a raging mob, and how Edward tries to adapt to the world outside of the mansion on the hillside.


Janet Maslin- http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9C0CE2D81338F934A35751C1A966958260&partner=Rotten%2520Tomatoes

Marc Lee- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/11298442/Edward-Scissorhands-review-a-true-fairytale.html

Owen Gleiberman- http://www.ew.com/article/1990/12/07/edward-scissorhands

Fig 1- http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/81ZZQ0f71WL._SL1500_.jpg

Fig 2- https://fogsmoviereviews.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/edward_scissorhands_hill.png

Fig 3- https://fogsmoviereviews.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/edward_scissorhands_hug.png

No comments:

Post a Comment