Sunday, 17 November 2013

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Fig 1
Edward Scissorhands is a heart-warming blend of gothic peculiarity entwined with fifties suburbia, made in 1990 at the hand of Tim Burton. The premise follows the story of Peg, a small-time AVON entrepreneur, who stumbles upon a strange, secluded man by the name of Edward whilst hunting for potential clients. Edward is a troubled and incomplete being whose creator died before finishing him, thus he is stricken with the disability of having scissors as an alternative to hands. Though Edward is a seemingly alien being to the townspeople, he is welcomed into the community with positive and negatives consequences for his naivety.
The cinematography and contrasting art styles together form delightful storybook visuals. The small, generic town is described as “Bright colours in unlikely combinations, (for instance, a lavender-suited Avon lady driving a dandelion-yellow car) and fashionably ridiculous late-1950’s artefacts placed prominently through the characters’ bunker-like homes.” (Maslin, 1990) The bizarre surrealism of the fifties style gives the audience a look through the filter of Edward’s perspective (see Fig 2), which presents a satirical glance into the lives of housewives with nothing better to do when a complete stranger enters their conformist town. In a world in which traditional ideas are the foundation of society, Edward manages to make himself a local celebrity amongst the gossiping townsfolk, which reflects the idea of celebrity in the real world, in which abnormality is often confused with status.

Fig 2
The film is typically Burton-esque, with the gothic nature of his style slowly developing into what it is today, through the character of Edward and typical trademarks which carry his films. “The peculiar shrine-like assemblage of clippings in Edward’s fireplace; the bladelike beams that open a hole in his roof to the heavens and the inventor’s cherished machinery, so pleasantly antiquated that the machines seem to have animal faces.” (Maslin, 1990) This statement perfectly reflects the childlike connections that Burton attaches to the cinematic narrative, opening with magical imagery of paper cuttings falling in sequence (see Fig 3) and machinery dancing to the sinister acoustics of Danny Elfman’s orchestra.

Fig 3
Edward as a character was born from varying stylistic elements. “Depp’s movements, his voice, even his eyes ache of a character that is trapped within a body that isn’t who he is, but which defines him nonetheless.” (Tauchert, 2009) The character is reminiscent of the Somnambulist, Cesare, who features in another Burton-esque film; Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, (see Fig 4) whose eerie presence and thin, pale demeanour completely reflects the tortured soul of Edward. Burton even references the fact that Depp was cast as he felt he was in a similar position to the character. “(Depp) was looked upon then as a handsome leading man, yet I don’t think he felt that way. That’s why he wanted to do Edward Scissorhands: he understood that thing of being perceived as one thing and being something else.” (Burton, 2006)

Fig 4
Unquestionably, Edward Scissorhands has become one of the leading films of its narrow genre; a classic tale of Beauty and the Beast seen through the lens of an abstract director who doesn’t let the audience forget for a moment how extraordinary film can be when the parameters are pushed.



Maslin, J. (1990) Edward Scissorhands Film Review.

Tauchert, C. (2009) Edward Scissorhands Film Review.

Burton, T. (2006) Edward Scissorhands Interview.


Fig 1. Edward Scissorhands Poster (1990) From: Edward Scissorhands - Directed by: Tim Burton

Fig 2. Edward Scissorhands Town Still (1990) From: Edward Scissorhands - Directed by: Tim Burton

Fig 3. Edward Scissorhands Opening Still (1990) From: Edward Scissorhands - Directed by: Tim Burton

Fig 4. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari Still (1920) From: Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari - Directed by: Robert Wiene

1 comment:

  1. Another thoughtful review Josh :)
    Just be careful of your spelling - you have 'bladelike beans' in the roof !!