Edward Scissorhands – Use of Allusion and Symbolism
Nothing just happens in film. Directors all make certain choices in production in order to invite a particular response from the audience. The film, Edward Scissorhands is based around the introduction of a social outcast into a community and his attempts at acceptance. Although at first he is accepted whole heartedly and somewhat smothered, he later learns that despite how human he is, he cannot co-exist in the same world due to his differences. Using the production elements of symbolism; especially hands themselves, and the use of allusion to elements from other genres; particularly those from fairytale and gothic romance/horror films, Tim Burton has directed the film in such a manner to illustrate, emphasise and ridicule the materialism and lack of imagination of society. The film however, is prominently a satire which has certain elements from fairytale, comedy and horror genres. Through the choices made by the director, the audience is invited to become aware of the inhumanity present in the way society functions, especially in its prejudiced treatment towards people who do not conform.
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The use of allusion in Edward Scissorhands is one of the most important choices in production that has been made by director Tim Burton. In order to fully appreciate and understand the plot, the movie is dependant on the audience being able to recognise certain references and elements emulated from other films. Edward Scissorhands is especially reminiscent of the themes and concepts from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which is also based around the isolation, introduction and persecution of a man-made individual into a community. In addition to this, by casting Vincent Price; famous for his many roles in Hammer Horror films, as the inventor, Tim Burton not only alludes to themes of acceptance and creating a ‘perfect being’ from Frankenstein again, but also combines and parodies elements of horror into the film. Edward Scissorhands also uses elements from the fairytale genre, as shown in the first scene where a grandma is telling a child a bedtime story in a fairytale-cottage-like setting, but is especially reminiscent of the Walt Disney productions Beauty and the Beast, where an outsider falls for a young and beautiful woman, as shown through Edward and Kim’s relationship, and also incorporates Sleeping Beauty’s dark and ominous castle settings. Because of the allusions to such genres, the audience at first assumes that the production is a horror movie, but because Tim Burton has chosen to add elements of comedy into the film, it becomes clear that that movie is no-doubted a satire, which is important as the invited response is achieved through the ridicule of other concepts. Tim Burton cleverly merges and combines a variety of different genres and allusions into the Edward Scissorhands in order to construct and give greater depth and meaning to the overall film in a humorous way.
Symbolism also is a significant, if not essential element in the production of Edward Scissorhands. Tim Burton makes the choice to centre the film around Edward’s hands, not only because they are the obvious reason for his individuality and recluse but also because hands themselves are full of underlying themes and concepts which also assist in creating depth to the invited response. Despite Edward’s hands having the power of bringing joy and change into the uniformed community, as evident though his unique haircuts and topiary artworks, they were also the cause of much havoc and the reason why he was persecuted in the end. Hands can represent many ideas and convey numerous meanings, but in the film, Tim Burton has chosen hands as the key symbol to convey elements of individualism, intimacy, and also acceptance. When Edward destroys his own hands given to him as a present, unintentionally cuts his inventor’s face, and hurts Kim and her younger brother while trying to protect him, Edward’s individuality is greatly emphasised as his hands harm and acts as a barrier between his loved ones and it becomes clear why he chose isolation in the first place. This is especially evident when Edward tries to embrace Kim, but stops because of his hands. On the contrary, on a more positive note, through Edward’s garden the audience is shown his creativity and individualism through his colourful garden and topiaries. His garden also is an important symbol in the film as it also illustrates a dramatic contrast to the suburbia’s bare, dull and uniform gardens and emphasises society’s need to conform.
In conclusion, by using the production elements of both allusion and symbolism; director Tim Burton has created the film in such a manner by making deliberate choices in order to invite a certain response. The film is constructed and given greater depth through the allusion to elements from other genres and ridicules the suburbia’s materialism and lack of imagination, which in turn enhances the invited response. In addition to this, underlying themes especially those of individualism are conveyed through the use of symbolism to emphasise that society is uniform, prejudiced towards individuals who do not conform but also rejecting of change.
Chi To Ms Allen