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Mary Zoulis

Expressionism and Edward Scissorhands
By: Mary Zoulis
College Now Course - HUM 1

Expressionism was a term first used by the critics at the 1911 Fauvist and Cubist exhibition in Berlin. Expressionist artists use wild brush strokes, distorted subject matter and color to shock the viewer emotionally and spiritually. They do not portray reality or nature objectively. Their main goal is to arouse their viewers, and this is how they gain their attention. The film Edward Scissorhands by Tim Burton takes the expressionist ideals from the turn of the 20th century and updates them to reflect today's thinking.

Edward's appearance reflects how an expressionist artist uses subject matter to shock the viewer. In the film, Edward is portrayed as having scissors instead of normal, ordinary hands like every other human being. Not having hands is detrimental to him because he is not able to eat, dress himself properly or sleep without cutting himself and everything he holds. As a result, he obtains several scars on his face which contributes to a very frightful appearance, and destroys everything in his midst. Edward's lack of having hands is very similar to Kirchner's Self Portrait as a Soldier in 1915. In the painting, Kirchner is portrayed as missing a hand, and having a claw in its place. Both Edward Scissorhands and Kirchner are incomplete individuals. Tim Burton, the director of the film portrays the main character this way because he wants the viewer to feel something they are not used to feeling normally. Edward Scissorhands' appearance is unconventional and unrealistic because Burton wants the viewers to experience this for themselves.

The use of color in Edward Scissorhands is also meant to shock the viewer emotionally. Burton uses dark and primary colors to portray Edward, a characteristic of Expressionism. For instance, Edward is extremely pale, and has raven black, wild hair. The use of color helps establish an unrealistic and scary mood which the viewer can sense throughout the film.

Although Expressionism began in the early 1900's, its influence can still be felt in our society today.