2.4 Film Essay

“Visions are worth fighting for. Why spend your life making someone else’s dreams?”Tim Burton is someone who creates movies that no one else would think to do and continues to do so regardless of criticism .Tim Burton has his own very distinct style of film where he uses techniques to create unsettling and very distinct films.He uses elements of the gothic genre to do this.The film Sweeney Todd the demon barber from Fleet Street directed by Tim Burton is a film set in London and is about Benjamin Barker who has returned from his time in prison in Australia where he was wrongfully sent returns to his home London to discover he no long has his family and changes his name to Sweeney Todd. This sets him on a revenge vendetta where he slaughters people and puts them inside pies.Sweeny Todd has won 10 awards including Golden Globe for best motion picture and best villain.Sleepy Hollow is set in 1799 in a small village called sleepy hollow where Ichabod Crane is sent to figure out the murders that have been occurring frequently there.In both films Burton uses the same techniques to show elements to connect his work to gothic .The use of music, colour  and lighting are techniques used in both films.

Tim Burton is an american film director, artist , producer and animator.He is the eigth highest grossing director by world box office, he is known for his gothic, dark, eccentric style horror and fantasy films.He has been nominated for 2 oscars and has won multiple awards for his pieces of work.Because of Burtons style of work he includes many gothic elements into his films through film techniques.

A technique used by Burton in the film is the use of music.The tone of the music Burton uses quiet commonly does not match what is happening in the film and gives the watcher a slight feeling of discomfort and also helps to foreshadow. An example of this is the juxtaposition used during the first flashback when Todd , then referred to as Benjamin Barker was strolling through the markets with his wife and new born child.During this scene Todd is singing in the past tense telling us that this is not how it is anymore even though he is singing about his past and how good it was, foreshadowing to us that things are just going to get worse through the film.Another example of the music being used as a technique was when Judge Turpin comes in for his shave from Todd because he heard he was the best barber in London.Todd and Judge Turpin have a past because he was the now who sent Todd to prison in Australia and stole his family resulting in Todd’s daughter being trapped with him and the wife supposedly committing suicide.The juxtaposition of Judge Turnips character singing makes us feel uncomfortable because he is singing about positive happy things and we know that Todd wants to kill him.The contrast of the music and Todd having his blades so close to Judge Turnips neck makes us feel on edge because this is Todd ultimate goal however he is singing with the judge.In Sleepy Hollow Burton also uses this technique in sleepy hollow when the headless horseman is about to make his attacks on the people he has been commanded to kill , the music is very suspenseful foreshadowing that something is about to happen.Burton uses this technique to show an element of foreshadowing and a feeling of discomfort.The tone of the music does not usually match the images we are seeing on the movie leaving us with a feeling of confusion and discomfort.This also help foreshadowing events that are about to happen when we listen to the words of the songs in Sweeney Todd they are all about his revenge matched to a happy tone foreshadowing that he is going to carry out his revenge plot to feel the happiness we can hear in the music in the background.This gives us the feeling of suspense and uncomfort .In sleepy hollow the music builds suspense because it is playing before the headless horseman takes his victims .Forshadowing is a technique commonly used in the gothic genre to create suspense, Burton has done this through the use of music in both films.

In both films Burton also uses the technique of colour, this is used to give us a informed vision of the setting and to establish tone and mood .Monochromatic tones are achieved by adding a darker color, grey or black.In both films the colour palette is usually grey or black or a washed out blue grey colour.Dark colours like grey or black are usually associated with death ,evil and mystery and have negative connottions.An example of this is when we see Todd returning to London on his boat, the entire scene is in different tones of grey and washed out blues.We can see the clouds in the sky causing shadows onto London below , all the buildings are colourless and do not  have define distinct feature.The only light we can see is the street lights which have a dull have a darker brown light than a typical street light would have.Through the use of these colours in Sweeney Todd Burton has portrayed London to us as a dark and alarming place.Burton is well acknowledged for creating a grim , dark and fearful setting.He brings the town of sleepy hollow to life in a cold and dead sort of way.We can clearly see this when we are shown a shot of the own, the entire scene is in different shades of greetings such as sheep which are supposed to be a bright white are washed out with grey shadows on them.The forest is in the background and is black with the trees behind the foreground being grey, the trees have no clear definition between apart from the different shades of grey.The sky is grey and the smoke from chimneys adds more grey to the scene.Through Burtons use of monochromatic tones he has established the tone and mood to viewers.He is showing us through the dark colours that this is a place where bad things are going to take place and create a element of fear and dread to the viewers, and over all setting a dark and scary mood and that the main characters have negative views of the settings.This dark and foreboding tone and mood is very typically linked with the gothic genre.

Tim Burton’s style of movie is always portrayed as dark and uncomfortable. a way burton portrays this is through is the use of lighting.He uses low key lighting and the technique of chiaroscuro.Low key lighting is when one light is put directly towards the subject or setting, this technique is commonly used in horror movies and gives us a sense of mystery.In Sweeney Todd we see this through the mise en scene in Sweeney Todds old home when mrs lovett shows him it now whilst handing him his old barber blades.The only light in this scene is the light streaming through the window which casts shadows from the few objects that are placed in the room.In sleepy hollow the scenes filmed inside the people of the towns homes and the forest were filmed in low key lighting.In the forest in sleepy hollow the light is being shown forwards from the back casting shadows of the trees towards us , from the shadows we get that this is a dark and gloomy setting.The use chiaroscuro is also a lighting technique burton has chosen to use ,chiaroscuro is  the artistic term for the contrast of light and dark , it isn’t often used in a bold manner so it has a dramatic effect on the scene and effect is created through the low key lighting.This is used in both of Tim Burton’s films through the monochromatic tones he uses from the lighting this makes us see a washed out setting and charcaters , the lighting only allowed us to see half the face usually.We see this in sleepy hollow in the forest.Everywhere is surrounded by trees letting a limited amount of light in casting shadows on his face making it less clear for us to see his face and emotions towards the first and this tree because we can’t see his full face.This technique makes us feel uncomfortable well we are watching it , like in most horror movies when it is dark and there are shadows we begin to sit on the edges of out seat waiting for something happen so we don’t get a shock when something does.I think this was burtons intentions when making the film to have us sitting there with a fear enhanced by what we don’t know.

Tim Burton is not one to shy away from giving his viewers a sense of discomfort well they watch his films.He is best known for his gothic, dark, eccentric style horror and fantasy films and sleepy hollow and Sweeney Todd are no exception to this.He uses the techniques of music , colour and lighting to successfully do this.The music is used as a foreshadowing tool for both films, colour was used to set the tone and mood and lighting is used to give us the fear of the unknown and give viewers a feeling of discomfort.All these techniques are used to build the gothic elements and elements of horror in the film.I find this combined with his own personal style of film keeps his audience intrigued to the end of the film because you feel so uncomfortable but you know something is going to happen so you keep watching to the end to find out.  


  1. Clover,

    You need to look at the writing of this piece. At the moment, you aren’t sounding as sophisticated as you can. Look to address your introduction- it should accurately describe what to expect in the coming essay but in an interesting and attention grabbing way.

    Ensure you are describing and then analysing your techniques in enough detail. Don’t retell the plot of the films in order to describe the technique- this is not ‘analysing’.

    Mrs. P


  2. Clover,

    You still have a ways to go with this essay. Remember to cover the following in order to meet the task requirements:

    – The technique and how it is used across two films
    – Burtons purpose with the technique
    – How the technique has an impact on the audience and their experience of the films.
    – How the techniques combine to develop the gothic genre.

    Also, read your work back to yourself so that you catch the grammar and punctuation errors you have in this piece.

    Mrs. P


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