Friday, 11 November 2016

Edward Scissorhands - Film Review

Film Review-Edward Scissorhands

Fig.1 - Film poster
Directed by Tim Burton, the 1990 American film, “Edward Scissorhands” is a dark, romantic fantasy film. It is a heart-warming tale in the typical art style that is used by Burton but is one of his more notable films for being more relatable in the contexts of outsiders.  

The story focuses around the protagonist Edward Scissorhands, an artificial being who can simply be described as a monster based upon his design. Edward becomes alone after the death of his creator before he was able to fit Edward’s hands. This ultimately leaves Edward unable to complete every day functions but grants him the ability to sculpt the objects around him with his blades. After Edward is discovered by Peg Boggs he is brought to the lower suburban area in an attempt to integrate with society. While Edward’s gift brings him temporary comfort he is forced to retreat by the town’s people to his place of creation.

Fig.2 - Edward and his creator just before his death

While the overall story can be closely connected to fairy tales such as “Beauty and The Beast” there is a far more pressing issue that is expressed through this rather bitter sweet tale. Tim Burton himself had said the concept had been drawn from a fairy tale, “I’ve always had a love of fairy tales” (Burton, 2002) but also continued adding the statement, “but the psychological connection wasn’t there for me” (Burton, 2002). In creating a strong ‘psychological’ connection Burton has also reflected the worrying nature of American society.

Links can be formed between “Edward Scissorhands” and “Vernon God Little” (a satire on American society,) by DBC Pierre as the book revolves around Vernon God Little, an outcast. In Vernon’s case he is neglected for being from a poor background, associating himself to a minority and not following the rules of his society. As a result the people and the media use Vernon to advance their own gains, bending the rules to create profit, “we're not just talking executions here - we're talking the ultimate reality TV” (Pierre, 2003).

For Edward it is more obvious that he is an outsider from his character design to where he was created. The creation of the outcast can be attributed to set design seen from the very start. “A haunting gothic castle crouches on a mountaintop high above a storybook suburb, a goofy sitcom neighbourhood” (Ebert, 1990). Drawing inspiration from a post war American suburb the set has been cleverly put together. Obscure pastel colours coat the houses following the same theme instantly hinting conformity and social norms. Rows of green front yards, bright cars and repetitive houses evoke feelings of unease. Juxtaposing this is the European castle that sits at the top of the hill. Gloomy from afar the front yard is filled with shaped hedges, drawing one in. Metaphorically this can be applied to the characters themselves with Edward going beyond his physical appearance and vice versa with the locals.

Fig.3 - Suburb juxtaposed by the European castle in the background
The distance between the castle and suburb is matched by Edward’s and the people’s differences. “Edward himself, one of the most memorable figures in modern cinema” (Lee, 2014), is a truly unique character. In an attempt to help Edward the caring Peg Boggs tries to make the isolated stranger fit in. Starting with clothes, make up and even suggesting having a doctor ‘fix’ his hands. However Edward’s inability to integrate is signified from the start with his scissor hands. Shown through lighter scenes of comedy as Edward attempts to eat, sleep and dress himself struggling to do so in a ‘normal’ fashion.

The entire world of "Edward Scissorhands" is satire, and so Edward inhabits it” (Ebert, 1990). Accepted at first Edward is slowly rejected by the local area as the people spread rumours and conspire against him. The notable addition of Edward’s clothing having an extra tear as the stress amounts throughout the film truly helps to highlight the pressure upon the single figure. Burton has done something that is truly amazing, have the audience sympathise with the monster of the fairy tale.

Sadly this reflects events in American society, one in particular being that of Levittowns. Suburbs that were created postwar supposedly reinforcing the concept of the 'American Dream'. Despite this dream that contained freedom and wealth for those who earned it these communities were largely made up of Caucasians shunning the black society. "But the deeds restricted the sale of the houses to caucasians" (kelly, 1993). This is particularly notable as the suburb in the film borrows the design of those of Levittowns. 

Fig.4 - Levittown with houses repeating the same design
Not only has Burton created a rather emotional film but one that also provokes thought beyond what is immediately perceived. As the lone creature who did not conform with the social norms is forced away by the mass the viewers are presented with questions of their own society.

Ebert R. (1990)
Accessed on (09/11/16)
Kelly B. (1993) Expanding the American Dream: Building and Rebuilding Levittown pp. 60
State University of New York Press, Albany 
Lee M. (2014)
Accessed on (10/11/16)
Woods P. (2002) Tim Burton A Child's Garden of Nightmares pp. 59
Plexus Publishing Limited 

Illustration list 
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1 comment:

  1. Hi Al,

    Interesting review :)

    Don't forget to italicise your quotes!