Edward Scissorhands

Tim Burton, USA, 1990, Twentieth Century Fox


Peg Boggs is a door to door beauty products salesperson. Visiting a suburban neighbourhood, she receives a frosty greeting as the residents one after another close their doors in her face. Annoyed and discouraged, Peg notices a castle looming over the neighbourhood in her rear-view mirror. On seeing the grand house, she senses a challenge and an opportunity and decides to go and chap the door.

The mise en scene highlights the contrast between the world below, that of families and “normality”, and the world above, that of the creature and the unknown. The marked presence of the coloured walls, brought to notice by the bright sunlight is presented in opposition to the greyness of the castle and the general darkness that surrounds the hill. A crane shot from behind dead branches, passing a decaying gothic statue shows the arrival of the car. The ducking and diving of the camera guides the entire sequence, rendering Peg tiny in the face of this fortress which squashes all around it with its height. Before she actually enters into the castle it seems necessary to have a journey where both Peg and the audience observe and get closer to the building. First in the car in the drive, then through the overgrown gate, where she struggles to get through, and then into the garden. She slowly heads towards the building, amazed by the precision and scale of the topiary creations in this first step towards the castle. It is here that we see the unique colours of this space, possibly suggesting a link with the world below. The camera turns to allow us to see what she’s seeing. The music that accompanies Peg’s journey of discovery is somewhere between curiosity and fear. There follows a shot from a great height that seems to suggest that someone is watching. Someone who we don’t yet know. Peg pushes against the heavy door, breaking anew into another space, where the camera awaits her on the inside at a distance. This renders her once again tiny in a massive, darkened space. The colour of the car, and her uniform, all one pastel shade much like the houses, underlines the frivolous function of her proscribed greeting: “Avon calling!” against this strange and troubling location, after the sculptures in the garden, the discovery of the abandoned machines, which we understand belonged to the former proprietor a deceased inventor. The spectator discovers the space primarily by the way of these clues, these traces left in the space, before we meet the central character, Edward, in the following scene. Edward, whose presence we’ve sensed since the start of Peg’s journey.