German Expressionism & Tim Burton

How does Tim Burton demonstrate notions of German Expressionism in modern times? 

Tim Burton, the famous American film director who directing movies such as Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Corpse Bride (2005), can arguably be said to have been influenced by German Expressionism. If this were true then that would make Tim Burton a Neo-expressionist, meaning that he upholds the style of film used in Germany just under a hundred years ago. This is a debatable statement as some of his greatest and most appraised works are dark, gothic, macabre and quirky horror and fantasy films. Those elements evidently used in his films are also in almost every single German Expressionist film, and thus there is a fascinating connection between the two.

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The film ‘Corpse Bride’, is undoubtedly made up of numerous conventions that were exercised by German Expressionists in the 1920’s. This can be seen as these two images from the 9-year old film are far from having the resemblance of a rainbow. Tim Burton intentionally used a limited range of colour to maintain a gothic atmosphere within the film, using a lot of dark and ‘ugly’ colours. As German Expressionism film had this very same similarity, a bond is established between ‘Corpse Bride’ and German Expressionism.

edward_scissorhands12 edward-scissorhands

‘Edward Scissorhands’ is a slightly older example of a Tim Burton piece which has a correspondence to the works of German Expressionists. This 24-year old film which to this date is considered a masterpiece, has elements of abnormal costume design. This is present in the two images above which show the figure of the character, ‘Edward Scissorhands’, with is literal scissors for hands and a black gothic-like suit which seems a bit mechanical in the sense that it has all these different pieces of metal that have been used to compose the suit of its shape. This element makes a strong distinction from mainstream cinema. This film is connected to the style of German Expressionism as he applies the same techniques to portray unorthodox notions of horror and oddity.


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