Sunday, 3 March 2013

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

“Drop your weapons!”

Finally getting to see this film, after so many years, was an interesting pop culture experience: although I’d never seen the film I distinctly recall seeing Rob Newman riffing on it in The Mary Whitehouse Experience all those many years ago. It turns out that those sketches were, well, pretty accurate, but this is nevertheless a superb and surprisingly deep film.

It’s smalltown America during some strange timeless amalgam of the 1950s and the 1980s. On the hill is a blatantly out-of-place spooky castle straight out of a Roger Corman flick, which makes the casting of Vincent Price highly appropriate. But the style, particularly Edward himself (Johnny Depp, of course, in his breakthrough role), is unmistakably Tim Burton, immune to the passing of the years. The fact that Edward always wears a gimp suit in spite of all narrative logic is the most stylistically Tim Burton thing ever, as well as partly symbolising the theme of the film: stultifying small town nosey conformity and snobbery vs. the freedom to pursue alternative lifestyles.

There’s an obvious parallel, I suppose, with the Garden of Eden (which here is a creepy horror film castle!) and the corruption of the world (which, pleasingly, is represented by 1950s conservative values), especially as Edward is shown to be a brilliant gardener, if highly unconventional. I like the dinosaur.

Edward’s “fall” is down to the corruption of this environment by means of Winona Ryder’s love interest, and the final scenes are very reminiscent of James Whale’s Frankenstein, except for the fairytale ending. Ah yes, that word “fairytale”. It keeps coming up in my reviews of Tim Burton films, doesn’t it?

There’s a nice structural trick revealed at the end (the elderly narrator is Winona Ryder), and the film is both visually brilliant and powerful in its message. Any film that has its innocent protagonist be largely based on Freddy Krueger has got to be a classic.

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