It’s hard to believe Tim Burton made “Edward Scissorhands” over 25 years ago. This is his best and most iconic film; a feast for the eyes and a lyric tonic for the stoner’s soul. Like many of Burton’s projects, “Scissorhands” tells the story of an outsider. Edward (Johnny Depp) lives alone in a towering mansion at the top of a hill, until kind Avon lady Peg (Dianne Wiest), brings him down into civilization. Edward’s pale skin is scarred from accidental run-ins with his own sharp scissor fingers.
Peg resides in Burton’s poetic version of suburbia, where the houses are pastel-colored and identical. The townsfolk are all demented caricatures of housewives and busybodies. They probably wouldn’t touch cannabis with a 10-foot pole. Edward might be the suspicious loner with no social etiquette or experiences, but in Burton’s eyes, the ordinary people are the scary ones.
The film is set to the swelling strings of Danny Elfman, a composer who has collaborated with Burton throughout most of his career. His music is haunting and ethereal and sounds like it belongs in another universe entirely – a universe Burton’s visual mastery graciously provides.
“Scissorhands” is about being a lonely artist. Edward creates: with his sharp fingers, he trims every garden hedge in town. They emerge in the fanciful shapes of dinosaurs and ballerinas. He also cuts hair; when he trims the tresses of neighborhood housewives, he gives them edgy, asymmetrical styles unprecedented in such a monotonous place. And he carves ice sculptures. In one of the film’s most vivid sequences, Edward’s scissor-hands chip away at an enormous block of ice, sculpting it into the shape of an angel. While he works, ice billows to the ground in the form of snowflakes, and Kim (Winona Ryder), who has never seen snow before (suburbia is gloriously weather-free) dances joyfully in the impromptu blizzard. She appreciates his art, even if she doesn’t understand it.
Much like Burton, who is reclusive and rarely seen among Hollywood social circles, Edward cannot exist in the conventional “real world.” In the end, he returns to his isolated castle on the hill (where he continues sculpting). He channels his existential pain into art: He knows he is aberrant, scarred and will never fit in. But most artists feel this way. Edward accepts his creative fate.
Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldDGO Staff Writer