Scholar of Gothic fiction, Alison Milbank once claimed that “Gothic fiction tells us the truth about our divided nature and moves attention to the horrors that lurk in our own psyche. The unconscious comes to be a subject of attention and exploration.” Thus, a question arises whether audience members are in touch with their own psyche. Tim Burton is an iconoclastic filmmaker, rejecting the customs and beliefs established by conventional Hollywood film. Whilst watching a variety of Burton films, the average viewer would soon realise that Burton refuses to choose between pursuing his personal vision or conforming to commercial demands.
Through this, he never fails to produce dark gothic fairytales filled with freaks, outsiders and loners which are not typical of other successful box office films. His unique auteurist cinematic style is due in part that as a child, Burton sought refuge in horror films and identified with the monsters whom he regarded as misunderstood in contrast to the commonly adored heroic protagonists.
His ability to grasp and manipulate the hearts and minds of his viewers through his definitive cinematic directorial style is a significant reason for the continuous success of his films. Burton is known for his dark, gothic narratives that boast psychologically twisted stories and feature strange characters living on the fringe of the wider community. Characters who do not fit within the perimeters of what is ‘acceptable’ in society, both in his films and in our contemporary society.
Burton masterfully crafts the techniques of characterisation, lighting and colour palette to achieve his characteristically dark, witty and morbid fantasies.
Two of his most evocative and renowned films, Edward Scissorhands and Corpse Bride, both display the recurring motifs of sacrificial love, revenge, insanity and death. The twisted and controversial lens that Burton chooses to create distorts the audience’s view of modern society, whilst challenging almost universal morals. By forcing the audience to question the foundation of their societal understanding, Burton is able to create a sense of distrust in perspectives.
The vulnerability created by distrust of our psyche creates an uneasy mood that allows Burton to present the audience with the flaws of our society and manipulate their reactions accordingly. Burton creates these films to urge his audience to step out of our prejudices or discrimination and to acknowledge and accept the abnormal traits we all have within us.
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