Tim Burton has a very defined style as a director. Analyse how he uses visual and/or verbal. features across at least two of his texts to fulfil the common conventions of gothic fiction.
Tim burton is a self acclaimed american director that is best know for this gothic themed films such as Edward scissorhands, Sweeney todd the demon barber on fleet street, The nightmare before christmas and Sleepy Hollow, Burton’s use of cinematic techniques give his films an identifiable uniqueness that many gothic movies lack and many of the techniques are used across many of his films. In this essay I am going to look at how Burton uses the elements of gothic fiction effectively
In this essay I will be focusing on two visual texts and how Tim Burton uses similar technique in both to portra elements of Gothic Fiction. In Sweeney Todd we follow an angered baber fueled by his own thirst for revenge for a man who did him wrong in his past. On the other hand Sleepy Hollow follows a young detective who has been sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of murders that have occurred and ends up dealing with the supernatural and has to work out what is fueling this being and why it feels the need to commit murder. The techniques Burton uses in both of these texts creates an ‘uneasy’ feeling and leave the audience wanting more, by flawlessly executing certain changes to the camera angles, flashbacks and colour Burton gives the film a gothic feel.
Tim Burton use of certain camera angles gives the audience particular focal points in each scene so they see what the director (burton) is intending on them seeing. The changes in camera angles in both texts are manipulated to show emotion as well as specific elements of the film.
In Sleepy Hollow one of the most influential scenes is when Ichabod first sees the headless horseman. By using a low angled shot it was able to make the horseman seem larger than it was – by increasing the visual size of the horseman it made him see hude compared to his surroundings and gave him some form of dominance and could create uneasiness within the audience. This particular scene changes from a low angled shot to a wide angled shot, this develops a protagonist and antagonist relationship with the comparison of the two main characters. This technique is use in Tim Burton’s other film Sweeney Todd by showing Sweeney as being a supernatural being with the ability to shave with such precision and speed. When put into a contest to see who could shave a man’s face the fastest to is put up against Mr, Pirelli who claims to be the best barber in London. AT the beginning as Pirelli rushes into shaving the mans face, Todd seems calm and takes his time, almost like giving Pirelli a head start. From a wide shot of Pirelli shaving the mans face to a sudden change into a close of Sweeney’s face in the last few seconds of his shave the Audience is astounded by the speed at which Todd was able to shave the mans face- by using the close up shot of Sweeney todds face the audience feels uneasy as tod seems very excited about having creating suspicion and uneasiness to the audience.
In both movies we see a number of flashbacks that all involve many of the same techniques. In sweeney Todd the use of flashbacks shows the contrast between his past and present life. It shows the change and development of the Sweeney Todd we know famously know, by doing this the audience questions if this is ow Todd usually acts or it is just his thirst for revenge taking over his form of reality and moral integrity. We are shown a flashback of Todd straight after we meet his character walking down a Dark street whilst raining, entering Mrs Lovett’s pastry shots the audience catches glimpses of cockroaches crawling on the bench and sitting on the pie pastry with no reaction from Todd nor Lovett as well as the walls being plastered with ripped wallpaper and dust covered surfaces surrounding the characters, this tells the audience that the town Sweeney Todd is in is known for being gross and rundown. Whilst in the shop we are converted to a flashback full of bright colours, Sweeney is standing with his wife and everything is happy and in colour, We can see todds face full of colour with no dark circles beneath his eyes and he is smiling which we have not yet seen in do in his ‘reality,’ Sweeney’s wife and child are dressed in white which make them seem like some sort of angle figure, with flowers surrounding them and the music being upbeat and happy we can see that Todds life used to be much better. When he is brought back to reality the colours are drained from the shot and we are once again presented with a monochromatic scene showing Todds sadness and negativity this contrast is a strong indication of foreboding.
In Sleepy Hollow uses of flashbacks are used to further define the plot, The first flashback we are shown show Ichabod as a small child, watching a lady who is covered in flowers standing ina field spinning and then begins to float, this already indicates to us that his being is supernatural with her ability to float in mid air. This woman plays with Ichabod in the field which suggests to the audience that it is his mother, next in this flashback we see the same woman drawing patterns in the ash in front of a lit fire whom is then dragged away by a man who showed negative emotions towards the ‘ritual’ she was doing. These short scenes show the audience that Crane has been involved in supernatural throughout his whole life explaining his initial reaction of surprise towards the horseman and shows that supernatural being will continue ot be shown through this film.
Colour is a major technique in both of these visual texts that give it the recognisable gothic fiction feel. By changing the colour of a scene slightly it can give the film a whole different portrayable emotion. In the sweeney todd opening scene we are presented with a very monochromatic image which is then disrupted by what would be identified as blood, The bright read colour of the blood become the focal point of the scene as well as quick flashes of a raging fire and ground up meat which foreshadowing what will happen within the movie. As spoken about above in both films the flashbacks tend to use the addition of colour to change the emotion of the audience, In Sweeney todd most if not all of the scenes are drained of colour and are monochromatic with a few splashes of colour every now and then (in flashbacks and other people) by being monochromatic it give the film a emotionless, dark feel to it and the audience can become engrossed in the sad reality of sweeneys life and how his thirst for revenge has taken over him and drained his life of all colour when the best things in his life used to be bright and happy looking.
In Sleepy Hollow the overall colour of the scene is also monochromatic and this is to show that the town in which Ichabod is staying seems spooky and mysterious. The first coloured scene we are shown is when Ichabod enters a building (i would assume a bar) everything is full of colour and the sound of people talking saturates all other sound, this makes it all seem very fake and staged, when 3 murders have been committed in a town you wouldn’t expect everyone to seem so cheerful, other times bright colours are used are also in Ichabods flashbacks with his mother being the focal point in all of them, this shows that she was a big part in Ichabods life and now that she is gone his life was drained of colour.
To conclude, in the two visual texts ; Sweeney Todd and Sleepy hollow we see Tim Burton uses of cinematic techniques in a similar way within two different story lines to creates the Gothic Element. Burton uses the same techniques as a focal point to show how character develops within both films. With the use of Camera Angles, Flashbacks and Colour he creates curiosity within the audience leaving them wondering what will happen and becoming attached to the characters themselves. It is Burtons flawless execution of these techniques that had made his films so successful and well known around the world.