Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Space Oddities: Edward Scissorhands (1990) Film Review

Fig 1: Edward Scissorhands film poster.

A charming concoction of comedy, romance and suspense, Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) can surely be seen as a grace to cinema. 

This fantasy film is felt as a modern interpretation of James Whale’s “Frankenstein” (1931) – a man created from various pieces and parts that comes alive and loves his maker.

Fig 2: The pastel town

Director Tim Burton is renowned for his artistic and wacky production designs, which can also be seen in his other films such as “Alice In Wonderland” (2010), “Beetlejuice” (1988) and “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” (2005). The characteristics of these features engage a cartoon – like live action environment inhabiting quirky characters and peculiar storylines: “As in each of Mr. Burton’s films, the production design is the central good idea, perhaps even the sole one” (Janet Maslin, 1990). In “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) Burton displays great imagination as well as a heavy contrast – we are presented to a sweet, small town filled with pastel coloured homes and perfect yards (seen in Fig 2), humble neighbours and orderly regimes; on the other hand, the complete opposite towers overs the small population in the form of a large, dark and mysterious mansion which is placed upon a tall mountain (seen in Fig 3). Much like Roger Ebert describes, “Burton uses special effects and visual tricks to create sights that have never been seen before” (Ebert, 1990) many of the special effects used creates an enticing environment and interesting shenanigans during the course of this film.

Fig 3: In contrast - Edwards mansion

After viewing the film, a noticeable relationship with Robert Wiene’s “Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari” (1920) and “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) are the similar, eccentric scenery plus the odd, peculiar character that is Edward, who is comparable to Cesare – quiet, dark, strange and interesting. “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) also goes hand in hand with Jean Cocteau’s “La Belle et la Bete” (1946), as Edward (seen as the “beast”) and Kim (seen as the “beauty”) slowly fall in love. 

Fig 4: Edward using his talent to cut Peg's hair.

After the viewers are settled into the humble town, we see Peg (Dianne Wiest, seen in Fig 4) venture to the untouched mansion, pondering is anyone is there. Outside, there are bush sculptures by Edward, and here Janet Maslin describes: “He (Edward) uses his extraordinary gifts to create magical artworks that, he imagines, no one will ever see.” (Maslin, 1990)
  Upon meeting Edward, Peg is initially alarmed, however, Peter Travers explains “her maternal instincts are soon aroused” (Travers, 1990) and she takes him home to lovingly look after him. Soon, the neighborhood quickly learns of the new guest and are intrigued to meet him. After a spontaneous barbeque, the townspeople meet Edward and are interested in him, meanwhile the women feed and spoil him. By this time, his bush sculptures have become very popular, and he begins to cut the peoples hair. 
 Upon meeting Peg’s daughter Kim (played by Winona Ryder), Scissorhands quickly falls in love, but knows that his strange appearance and scissors for hands will prevent him from getting close to her. Gradually, after accidents and cutting people, the townspeople turn against Edward : “Burton shows how the townspeople’s curiosity about Edward turns to suspicion and hostility” (Peter Travers, 1990). In a high tension ending, a quarrel between Peg’s now ex-boyfriend Jim (Anthony Hall) attempts to kill Edward (who has since retreated to the mansion) then pierces Jim's chest and kills him instead. Edward is once again alone in the mansion, and Kim tells the townspeople that Edward is dead. However, revealed at the end, an older Kim explains  to her assumed granddaughter, that she knows Scissorhands is very much alive, since it never used to snow before he was around.

Fig 5: Edwards creator who was about to give him human like hands.

Notable iconic scenes include the artistic way in which Kim dances in the “snow” Edward creates – the slow motion movement of the camera gives us a sense of happiness, relaxation and seeing this character be contempt; the portrayal of Edward who throughout the movie is mostly kind, gentle and polite, scraping his scissor hands across the walls in anger, and chopping off the “normal” clothes he has been placed in. This can be seen as Edward also being covered up to look normal, but underneath he is very different to the regular townspeople; and the moving hug between Kim and Edward (seen in Fig 6 below), as usually he cannot touch or fully embrace with his scissor hands. 

Fig 6: Edward and Kim embrace

This film induces an array of emotions, ranging from fear, suspense and tension, to happiness, slapstick amusement and a compelling story. A large portion of these emotions are evoked through the powerful music that plays throughout – gentle, choir music during relaxing scenes, and loud, string orchestra low tone music that plays during high tension scenes. 

Truly a magical film, “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) is one not to be missed. 

Ebert, R. December 14, 1990. Edward Scissorhands, rogerebert.com, (Accessed on 03/11/15) http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/edward-scissorhands-1990
Maslin, J. December 7, 1990. Movie Review - Edward Scissorhands (1990), nytimes.com, (Accessed on 03/11/15) http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9C0CE2D81338F934A35751C1A966958260
Travers, P. December 14, 1990. Edward Scissorhands, rollingstones.com, (Accessed on 03/11/15) http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/edward-scissorhands-19901214

Illustration List

Fig 1: "Edward Scissorhands film poster" (Accessed on 03/11/15)

Fig 3: "In contrast - Edward's mansion" (Accessed on 03/11/15) https://hollywoodshtick.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/600full-edward-scissorhands-screenshot.jpg
Fig 5: "Edwards creator who was about to give him human like hands" (Accessed on 03/11/15)
Fig 6: "Edward and Kim embrace" (Accessed on 03/11/15) https://carlosnightman.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/edward_scissorhands12.jpg

1 comment:

  1. Another interesting review Manisha... just don't forget to italicise your quotes!
    Also, be careful of your spellings (and relying on spell check) - you say, '...a sense of happiness, relaxation and seeing this character be contempt' when I assume you mean 'content' ?