The Sound of Edward Scissorhands
For a very long time I was thinking about which movie will I choose to write about. I have never closely looked at the soundtracks of movies because music would always fit to the story and it would, automatically, emphasize my emotions. Now, when I have to analyze the soundtrack I couldn’t remember any songs from any movie that I ever have seen.
Suddenly, extraordinary composer crossed my mind, Danny Elfman. The famous composer who had worked on soundtracks for many successful blockbusters like The Batman, The Hulk, The Spider-man 3, Alice in Wonderland, The Simpsons, Corps Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas, etc. Searching through Elfman’s works, I found the movie Edward Scissorhands. I have seen this movie multiple times, and I liked it a lot, so I decided that I will research was Elfman’s soundtrack one of the reasons why I liked it so much.
Edward Scissorhands was one of the early masterpieces of director Tim Burton. According to Steve Biodrowski in Tim Butron’s Elephant Man, Edward Scissorhands is probably Burton’s best live-action fantasy. Even decades later, the film remains his finest work as director. Burton decided to hire Danny Elfman to do the soundtrack for the movie, in my opinion, probably because they have already worked together. For casting, Burton hired Johnny Depp to play Edward, Winona Ryder for Kim, and Diane West for Peg.
Since I have already seen this movie, and I knew what it was about, for this soundtrack analysis I decided to make an experiment. I decided to put subtitles in different language then English so I could not understand what actors were saying. That way I could concentrate on acting, and more importantly, on soundtrack of the movie. I was curious would music enhance my mood and emotions and will I be able to understand the story of the film.
According to Giannetti in Understanding Movies, music can suggest the mood or spirit; also it can suggest the locals, classes, and ethnic groups. Soundtracks can set dramatic, melancholic, or even anxious context to the images, but more importantly, music can tell the story. Soundtrack of Edward Scissorhands was primarily telling the story. For Elfman, that was the primary goal; to create the soundtrack that will tell the story itself even if audience would only watch the images and listen to the music. Similarly, how old fashion movies were about.
From the beginning, Elfman created an opening song that serves as an overture to the movie as a whole. Title sequence was very important for him because it introduced the main mood. I my opinion, the theme was perfect because it suggested, not only mood for the film, but also Edwards character.
Furthermore, Elfman created song for Edward’s character which was divided in few sequences. Sequences would change accordingly to Edward’s face expressions. One sequence would be frolic and then it would turn into more ominous. After that, sequences would switch between ominous and wonderment, wonderment to madness, and madness to frolic again. All together, sequences were representing Edward’s character, which is, according to Giannetti, soundtracks purpose. Clint Mansell, in Movie and Music, states that it is very important to set music that will set a feeling of a human for the audience, especially in fantasy movies like Edward Scissorhands, and I believe that Elfman did it successfully because not only great acting of Johnny Depp created emotional human-like Edward, but also music enhanced it as well.
Along Edward’s theme, there is suburban theme that follows, so called, Suburbia. It is a simple melody with variations that change through the different scenes. That melody is chaotic, big and heavy with changing the pace followed by suburbia habitats life.
I would like to single out one specific part of the movie that was followed by very interesting song. When Edward is remembering how he was created, the images of walking devices depict a factory where he was born. Frolic music follows the rhythm of those walking devices creating industrial mood of the scene. Song tempo and tempo of machinery are synchronized and that way they draw the audience more closely into the factory where Edward was created.
After I finished my experiment, I realized that for this movie soundtrack was as important as acting and scenery. I believe that Danny Elfman made an awesome job with the soundtrack. He characterized Edward with melodies, gave him another dimension, and deeper connection to the audience. For me, soundtrack was something that gave me emotional side of Edward and made him one of my favorite movie character.