When a director sits down to create a movie, they have an idea of what moments in the movie must be emphasized to improve the story and make the movie his/her own. To emphasize these important happenings, the director can make specific lighting choices, diegetic and non diegetic sound choices, and shot and angle choices. (Note: diegetic is defined as able to be heard logically by the characters existing in the cinematic scenario, and non-diegetic is the opposite) Making his debut in 1982 with a short film entitled “Vincent,” Tim Burton has directed many cinematic works, each of which share a distinctive style special to only his movies.
In his short films “Vincent” and “Frankenweenie.” and his full-length film Edward Scissorhands, Tim Burton uses lighting, sound, and shot/angle choices to emphasize his eerily intense style.
Tim Burton makes intentional lighting choices throughout his film that epitomize his eerily intense style. In “Frankenweenie,” Tim Burton uses low key lighting in the lab where the main character is attempting to revive his dead dog using electricity.
This brings about suspenseful feelings in the reader’s mind. This suspense is in part due to the darkness, but it is also due to the moment that the choice is emphasizing: messing with dead things is automatically eerie. Edward Scissorhands also utilizes lighting choices to make the style apparent. Perhaps the most blatant example of this is in Edward’s mansion where low key lighting is present with the only light coming in from the side windows.
These choices intensify the moment and point out how obviously eerie of a moment it is when you are investigating an abandoned, dark mansion that doesn’t belong to you. Finally, Tim Burton’s style is shown through lighting choices in the short film “Vincent” as well when he intensifies Vincent’s moments of terrifying insanity in his room with dark light and points out how eerie it is that a boy of Vincent’s age is trying to be “Vincent Price.” Tim Burton’s use of lighting choices not only show his style but also enhance the movie In order to attain the style of eerily intense throughout the three cinematic works, Tim Burton also makes conscious choices when using shots and angles.
In “Frankenweenie,” when Victor brings the dog back onto his table after electrifying him, there is a close-up shot on his face to emphasize the emotion and intensify the situation. It also allows the viewer to infer that he anticipates something odd, which contributes to the eerie nature of the movie. The eye level angle used in Edward Scissorhands when Edward is looking at the daughter brings intensity into the scene by emphasizing the “love at first sight” while also emphasizing how eerie and strange a robot being in love with a human is in general. It also sort of makes us begin to worry that Edward is having more complex emotions, which could lead him to retaliate from all of the jeering. When “Vincent” is first beginning, there is a medium shot on Vincent right before he transforms into a boy version of Vincent Price which emphasizes the transition into the insane being in the laboratory. This intensifies the contrast between the two personalities and allows us to recognize how insane he is, which contributes to the eerie nature of the scene. Tim Burton’s shot and angle choices sometimes show power and emotion, grabbing the audiences attention and intensifying the situation in the movie.
What is perhaps one of the most trademark expressions of style in Tim Burton’s works is his use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound. In Edward Scissorhands, when the daughter of Peg is going outside to find Edward (when Edward was crafting his first ice sculpture), the intensity of the moment builds due to the non-diegetic noise in the background. This noise is identifiable as very repetitive but awe-inspiring choral music. In addition to building the intensity, it emphasizes the night and how eerie it is outside – the calm before the storm, so to speak. In “Vincent,” diegetic sound is utilized when Vincent plays a very creepy tune on his woodwind instrument which sets the stage for the film, building the intensity and adding to the eerie nature of the situation that this young Vincent Price finds himself in. Finally, the honking of the car horn right before Sparky is run over in “Frankenweenie” makes the moment intensely emotional and sort of foreshadows the eerie circumstances that Victor will get himself into. It is apparent that in Tim Burton movies, sound is one of the most important uses of style that are present. Background music never fails to arouse suspense or provide stark contrasts, and is able to be used in almost all situations.
Tim Burton’s use of lighting, sound, and shots/angles is evident throughout his works to work towards not only enhancing the style of the works but also making contrasts easily attainable. When the use of cinematic devices is evident in a movie, it makes it more entertaining, interesting, dimensional, and able to be related to. Therefore, the use of these tools is essential in cinema just as it is in literature. The observation of a director’s style can be likened to the observation of that of a writer. In the case of Tim Burton, the movies he directs generally have an eerily intense style, and all of the cinematic devices that may be used can and do contribute to that.