Edward Scissorhands – (Tim Burton 1990)


Edward Scissor-hands is an early 90’s cult piece of important cinema to many generations. This Gothic fantasy and dark, black romantic comedy was co-written and directed by Tim Burton and Caroline Thompson and directed by Burton himself. The whimsical heart-warming film follows “Edward” and unfinished robot created by an eccentric inventor for companionship. His creator unfortunately dies before completing work on his more human like hands, hence the title. In the present-day narrative of the film Edward sits alone in a huge Gothic castle previously owned by the inventor hidden from the locals and the neighbourhood. Until one afternoon a kind-hearted housewife and Avon lady decides to pop in after exhausting uninterested woman in the street nearby.

Burton’s classic successfully reaches for many genres, visual aesthetics which are Gothic while making sincere social comments. Famously ‘the Wizard of Oz’ follows a lion who needs courage, a scarecrow who needs a brain and the tin man who needs a heart. Specifically, the last character from arguably the most well-known film in the world is significant. The tin man one of main character Dorothy’s friend resembles. What would later in history resemble a robot. Like Edward, he also would like a heart to make him more human. Based on imaginative fairy tale stories teaching audiences a moral compass this is a clever narrative signifier, for both adults and children. When reversed in real life we call people void of emotion and driven by selfishness ‘robot’. Tim Burton’s iron, fun sense of humour is easily noted in Edward casual Scissor-hands.

The visual imagery of Edward’s creator and inventor’s castle is a clear reference to Burton’s love and fascination with 1960’s British Hammer Horror films. The elaborate visuals of the dark theatrical Gothic castle conjure thoughts and images of many haunted houses on hills. Both Dracula’s castle in Transylvania to even in fairy tale manner ‘Beauty and the Beast’. It is in stark contrast to the brightly painted, candy coloured, picket fenced suburbs below. This highlights well the clashing lifestyles and appearances between Edward and the local neighbourhood residents.


Edward appearance is like an updated version of Frankenstein’s monster. The classic important piece of literature about a lonely experimental scientist who creates a surrogate friend/son for companionship is not lost here. He walks like a robot, his sentences are short, his hands are uncompleted bits of metal emphasising Edward is a creation, not human however much he and his confused man made emotion crave to be.

Edward’s love interest Kim (Winona Ryder) could not be more different. The local golden girl, beautiful, smart, popular, and a cheerleader even. What I always appreciated about Winona Ryder’s performance is the subtle suggestion that she is intellectually and emotionally under the surface. She wants to be more than superficial. To trackback to a faint ‘Beauty and the beast’ remark. Not all is as it seems regarding her looks, family and social environment. She wants to explore and see life outside her world from a different perspective. She has also learnt from being judged. This coupled with potential romance makes this believable.

The dark, macabre, gothic fantasy and mise-en-scene creates Tim Burton’s unique style stamp on each film so that audiences will recognise. From Batman, to Beetle Juice, Sleepy Hollow, a recurring theme of an outsider whose ideals or appearance are with good intentions but stifled by social perception. Tim Burton is the definition of a modern auteur.

Von Von Lamunu




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