• Reel Reviews

Danny Elfman Paints an Internal Landscape

written by: on May 4, 2012

Framing the delicate content of Edward Scissorhands with the right kind of sounds is like appointing a person to style the president: there is simply a lot of pressure. A story like the one crafted by Tim Burton in 1990 was practically waiting to be placed into the hands of composer Danny Elfman. The American audience soon learned that a movie like this, that features the creative minds of Tim Burton and other artists, wouldn’t have soared as high as it did without the composition of Elfman.

The pairing of director Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman was a match made in heaven.The two have similar minds, both imaginary and practical, tying together fantasy and reality in a dream-like cognitive. A team of producers on one end and a 78-piece orchestra on the other end helped the vision of Burton and Elfman come to life.

When listening to the film’s instrumental soundtrack, we are again taken through the tales of the movie but without the visuals. These soundtracks were put out so we can recreate them in our minds. The convenience of it, too, is that we’re not forced to pay attention to the album like we owe to the film, the soundtrack accompanies emotional and psychological entertainment without becoming a distraction. This is something suitable for background music during busywork, helping the time pass by with ease and comfort.

The story of Edward Scissorhands is fantasy-like and whimsical, a perfect match for Elfman’s imaginative talents.

His symphonic accompaniments help narrate the story of a suburban door-to-door makeup saleswoman who ventures to a castle near her town to knock on the doors and make her pitch. The woman named Peg is eventually met with a very timid man who lived there alone and only had many pairs of scissors for hands.

The man, dressed in black with a pale white face, is later taken into Peg’s family to stay, where he is given plenty of love and nurturing to start a real life for himself. He was abandoned by his father and lived alone, and the family allowed him to express himself for the first time in his life, embracing his flawed appearance and giving him shrubs to trim and hair to groom in the neighborhood.

Before things go sour, Scissorhands is allowed to have a family and be himself, embrace his character and even fall in love despite his background and appearance. Only a story like this could be told through the mind of Burton and his favorite composer.

Elfman made magic for films like Mission: Impossible, Batman, Milk and most famously Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Somehow the talents of the composer are used as a secondary asset to the film’s work, outlining the events in the story with either a sweet symphony or a menacing rhythm to amplify the effect.

Though Elfman worked on thrillingly high-profile productions like TV’s Desperate Housewives and the Spider-Man films, his work with Burton is always much more expressive and creative. It seems that when doing work with his longtime friend and collaborator, he is not bound by the confines of industry moguls who have a more strict view of what they’d like to hear from him. In the black-painted world of Tim Burton, Elfman is allowed to work freely and lavishly. It shows in his wonderful work, possibly most intelligently here in “Edward Scissorhands.”

“Theme From Edward Scissorhands” falls near the end of the movie’s score and can serve as the its main song, encompassing themes of intolerance, the meaning of friendship, overcoming traumatic events and interpreting feelings that can be difficult to understand.

In a colorless picture plane, Scissorhands inspires a metamorphosis of the visual expression on the people of the town he now inhibits. From beginning to end, listeners can audibly detect a bloom in color balances through the work in the score. The beginning of the soundtrack is very traditional and sepia before soon opening its middle to a vibrant and allusive vibes as the narrative carries on. But as the story fades out, so does the color in the story and in the audio spectrum.

Something truly beautiful happens when the film starts to showcase Edward’s personal evolution as he lets his guard down and starts to find his place in life. He brightens up the town before he eventually ruins it, and it’s a rare thing to watch. Songs like “Beautiful New World” and “Edward Sees Kim” are simply exceptional to the ears, illuminated with brave writing. And through it all, the symphony that executes the dreams of its visionaries plays out not only a love story between the character and his new persona, nor himself and a young woman, but between the viewer and the film. Isn’t it romantic?