Friday, 6 November 2015

"Edward Scissorhands" (1990) - a review

Fig 1.

Tim Burton’s heroic disownment of conformity “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) shows the terror of simply “blending in”. In viewing the highly allegorical tale of Edward, the Boggs and the inhabitants of his world, the viewer is privy to Burton’s private thoughts on being the outsider, the lustre that it can bring, and the eventual fall, when everyone decides they have had their fill.

The stark difference between Edward’s world and that of the townsfolk is echoed in both story, and the meticulous quality of the art direction. Roger Ebert muses “The movie takes place in an entirely artificial world, where a haunting gothic castle crouches on a mountaintop high above a storybook suburb, a goofy sitcom neighborhood where all of the houses are shades of pastels and all of the inhabitants seem to be emotional clones of the Jetsons.” (Ebert, 1990) Bo Welch, production designer for the film recalls his initial confusion with the art direction, “When I first read the script I said to Tim, ‘So, this is how this is going to look? The castle and neighborhood are going to coexist?’ And he said, ‘Yes,’”(Welch, 2015) Indeed, the juxtaposition of these two seemingly opposite worlds creates a satisfying incongruity; all at once solidifying that the real place of terror is the suburb itself. The artificiality of its people, who drive the same cars in 4 choice colours, who own the same furniture and fridges, who’ve fallen victim of fad items like waterbeds, these people who lack the element of originality. Burton eschews them into weapons that critique contemporary living even to this day.

Plot-wise too, It can be posited that Edward’s journey through these people’s lives is charted in such a way so as to lead the viewer through the frustrations an artist can have when lifted from obscurity, into the eye of the masses. Itself offering a multi-faceted portrait of alienation from perceived normality.
Fig 2.
The stylistic qualities also harken back to the German expressionist films, which based themselves within older, more gothic tropes akin to that of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.  “The most obviously ‘expressionist’ thing about the film is the aesthetic – non-realistic locations, extreme camera angles, use of dramatic light and shade” (reflections, 2013) And more to the point, parallels can indeed be drawn between Edward and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”’s Cesare. They themselves both being created by man rather than being born of it, their fascination with the pure female character and even the ending of both films is similar, the townsfolk in both films regard the characters as monsters, the difference being that the audience has travelled with Edward and knows otherwise.

Edward Scissorhands is at once enjoyable on a superficial level as it is on a much deeper level, subtly hinting at Burton's take on being an artist, whilst providing a highly evocative and at points, tragic, tale of the outsider.

Fig 3.


Ebert, R. (1990). Edward Scissorhands Movie Review (1990) | Roger Ebert. [online] Rogerebert.com. Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/edward-scissorhands-1990 [Accessed 6 Nov. 2015].

Guerrasio, J. (2015). 'Edward Scissorhands' is turning 25 — this story from the film's production designer proves Tim Burton is a creative genius. [online] Business Insider. Available at: http://uk.businessinsider.com/edward-scissorhands-25th-anniversary-bo-welch-remembers-2015-10?r=US&IR=T [Accessed 6 Nov. 2015].

reflections, (2013). Expressionism Round 1: Edward Scissorhands vs Dr Caligari. [online] Available at: https://kgvreflections.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/expressionism-round-1-edward-scissorhands-vs-dr-caligari/ [Accessed 6 Nov. 2015].


Edward Scissorhands poster. [image] Available at: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/81ZZQ0f71WL._SL1500_.jpg [Accessed 6 Nov. 2015].

Edward Scissorhands still. [image] Available at: http://www.film4.com/media/images/Channel4/Film4/1990s/E/edward-scissorhands.jpg [Accessed 6 Nov. 2015].

Edward Scissorhands still. [image] Available at: http://40.media.tumblr.com/958f2d3d3d2a7560d68d346e5e18feed/tumblr_nj2mob5Yzk1tvl1ueo1_500.png [Accessed 6 Nov. 2015].

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