JUMPCUT All The Way

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Directed by: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall

Written by Bianca Garner

Like Burton’s Batman Returns; on the first watch Edward Scissorhands doesn’t jump out as a Christmas film. However; Edward Scissorhands is the perfect Christmas film because it promotes the strength and power of love and family, two things which are essential to Christmas. When asked about the where the concept of Edward Scissorhands came from, Burton explained it came from a drawing he drew as a teenager which reflected his feelings of isolation and being unable to communicate to people around him in suburban Burbank. The drawing was of a thin, serious-looking man with long, sharp blades instead of fingers. Burton stated that he was often alone and had trouble retaining friendships. “I get the feeling people just got this urge to want to leave me alone for some reason, I don’t know exactly why.”

The film begins in a fairytale-like fashion; with an elderly woman telling her granddaughter the story of a young man named Edward who has scissor blades for hands and the reason why it snows every Christmas. As the creation of an old Inventor, Edward (Johnny Depp) is an artificially created human who is almost completed. The Inventor (Vincent Price) homeschools Edward, but suffers a heart attack and dies before he could attach hands to Edward. Some years later, Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest), a local Avon door-to-door saleswoman, visits the decrepit Gothic mansion where Edward lives. She finds Edward alone and offers to take him to her home after discovering he is virtually harmless. Peg introduces Edward to her family: her husband Bill, their young son Kevin, and their teenage daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). Edward must try and adapt to life in the suburbs, becoming a dog groomer and a hairdresser for the ladies of the neighbourhood, and a great show and tell for Kevin. Slowly Edward and Kim grow closer, but there’s one problem to deal with, in the form of Kim’s hot-headed boyfriend (Anthony Michael Hall).

The element of Christmas takes a while to appear in the film, and it isn’t until the last act that Edward Scissorhands makes this shift into a Christmas film. However, this isn’t a time of celebration. Edward has become hated by the neighbourhood after being set up for a burglary that he didn’t commit.  Christmas is presented to us as this fake commercial act, where neighbours turn on neighbours and where it seems that bullies get away with their crimes. Burton is making a bold statement here. Instead of Christmas bringing this suburban community together, it has pulled them apart. The neighbourhood has become this place of competition and rivalry, where households seek to outdo each other in terms of who can ‘celebrate’ Christmas the most. As an outsider, Edward is unaware of how to participate in this rivalry and the act of Christmas, and we sympathise with him especially because he has become the scapegoat of all the issues to do with the community.

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are moments where the happiness and warmth of Christmas shine through and reinforces what Christmas is really about. The scene where Kim goes out into the backyard to find Edward making an angel ice sculpture, which creates a beautiful sprinkling of snow, helps to show us how the world can be transformed by a little bit of magic. Snow is presented as this simple beauty which has the power to make the world stop and reflect. In this brief moment, all of Kim’s and Edward’s anxieties melt away, and they no longer care regarding other people’s judgements. It is a powerful and iconic scene, which is made more effective by Danny Elfman’s score. This is what Christmas is all about, loving each other and taking part in the small, simple moments.

The power of Edward Scissorhands is how it manages to perfectly capture that loneliness, isolation, and family awkwardness that emerges around Christmas season. To anyone who finds it hard to socialise with distant family members, Edward feels like a kindred spirit. Ultimately, Edward is banished back to the top of the hill, but he manages to escape a life of materialism and fake respect. Many would consider this a somewhat sad ending, but all Christmas films have a touch of sadness to them. Christmas isn’t all tinsel, turkey dinners and presents. It can be a time of isolation and heartache for many. Edward Scissorhands helps us realise that life goes on and that an outsider can still bring happiness in their own way, shown how Edward brings snow to the neighbourhood.

Often Christmas films feel overwhelming, and a film like Edward Scissorhands can offer an alternative. It is a family film which has a strong moral message at its core, which we can all reflect on. Edward Scissorhands reassures us that it’s okay to be different and that everyone is entitled to love. With its moving storyline, stunning and quirky mise-en-scene and beautiful score, Edward Scissorhands is an overlooked classic holiday film which is definitely worth seeking out this Christmas.

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