German Expressionism and Tim Burton

2039 words 9 pages
German Expressionism and Tim Burton
Tim Burton's films have often been noted as modern day forms of German expressionism (the creative movement in Germany before World War I). It is through such things as sets, themes, makeup and costuming, lighting and shadows, acting techniques, and character that we can see Burton has been widely influenced by films of the era. The notable director's films Edward Scissorhands (1990), Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), all draw parallels to expressionist films of the era and the characteristics these films feature. Burton's expressionist style films are predominantly similar to that of Robert Weine's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu
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In The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, we see an entire murder scene take place through the shadows of the characters. Tim Burton was somewhat impacted by this specific form of lighting as he utilised chiaroscuro lighting throughout many of his films. The most obvious example of this is in the Batman movies. We see large and obvious shadows in scenes with The Penguin and the Batman symbol seen projected into the sky. Shadows are also utilised to cover Batman's face, adding to the mystery behind the character, much like the shadows used to cover Nosferatu. The famous staircase shadow scene in Nosferatu also most likely influenced this, where all we see is Nosferatu's shadow and the shadow of a staircase. A high contrast between light and dark is created in these films through this use of lighting and shadows, as seen in certain scenes where only certain areas of Batman can be seen in low-key lighting.

Chronology is a major theme that is toyed with in German expressionist films, as directors include many flashbacks and dream sequences, and the films often feature a disordered chronology. This form of expressionism impacted Tim Burton's films in a major way, as many of his films highlight a disarranged plot structure. In his films like Edward Scissorhands, we see flashbacks to Edward's past, as with the Batman movies, where the audience is given insight into the characters emotional state through Bruce Wayne's childhood flashbacks. We