3 visual/verbal features used in both sleepy hollow and Sweeney Todd.

  • Music
  • Lighting
  • camera angles
  • foreshadow
  • uneasy

“There’s a hole in the world like a big black pit who are filled with people who are filled with shit.” In my essay, I will be discussing the use of gothic techniques that develop a common gothic convention in Sweeney Todd and sleepy hollow. Tim burton has a very specific directing style that is typically horror based and rather frightening to watch. Tim Burton utilises 3 key techniques that are key in developing foreshadowing throughout both of these films, these techniques are Music, Lighting and the use of camera angles. Sweeney Todd is a movie that tells the story of a barber that seeks revenge on a judge who had him falsely accused and took his family. This results in sweeney todd taking drastic measures in order to  have the judge killed. Sleepy hollow is a supernatural gothic movie that entails a detective coming into a town where there is a murder causing havoc.

Firstly I am going to discuss how these 3 techniques are used in sweeney todd to build foreshadow, there a several times throughout the movie where these techniques are used to build foreshadow however it was mostly used in his attic. Burton utilized Sweeney todds attic as it was one of the major settings in the movie, several important events happened in there that give the viewer insight into the future events of the movie. A great example of this is when Todd sings a lullaby to his razors, this represents that he is going to use them for his plotted ‘revenge’. His passion towards the blades show that they are very important to him, as he sings them a song in the background there is daunting music playing enforcing the negative connotations around his lyrics.”Friends, you shall drip rubies You’ll soon drip precious rubies At last, my arm is complete again” Todd’s lyrics combined with the use of music in the background creates some unease for the viewer as his actions represent that he is going to use the blades for revenge yet he seems very comfortable in the situation. The way burton uses music creates foreshadow within the scene. Another example of when foreshadow was created in his attic was by using monochromatic lighting. This created many forms of tension within several scenes and developed foreshadow as it gave the viewer a sense of what’s going to happen next, great example of this was when Todd first entered the bakery under the attic it was set very darkly, this led into a song about the ‘best pies in london’ and this is when he meets mrs lovett. The dark lighting used when we are introduced to the setting shows that this will be a key setting throughout the film and represents that sinister things will occur, we know this because of the negative lyrics in the song and the dark lighting, it is also very run down which represents that it is going to have bad things happen there. Burtons use of camera angles throughout the film is also a very thorough way if developing foreshadow in the film. The way camera angles are used show who is the superior being in various settings. In sweeney todd camera angles are used frequently to hint at what will happen later in the movie, and example of this is when the judge is receiving a shave from todd and the camera angle used is a low angle shot, this makes Todd look much bigger than judge turpin and a lot more superior, this represents that Todd is above Judge Turpin and due to the fact that he is seeking revenge on the judge it develops a sense of what will happen later in the film for the viewer. Burton’s use of these 3 conventions develops the convention of foreshadow in the film. The use of these 3 techniques severely develops the convention of foreshadow in the movie.

Foreshadowing plays a big role in sleepy hollow, the 3 techniques I have discussed above are used frequently throughout this movie as well, the use of these techniques develop a main convention of  foreshadow. The use of music used in this movie develops suspense throughout individual scenes and the whole movie. A specific example of when music was used to develop foreshadow in the film was when Crane discovered the mysterious looking tree and proceeded to hack at it with and axe. When watching this scene it became apparent that there is very intense gloomy music playing in the background, as the scene gets more serious and he begins to hack at the tree the tempo begins to increase and the use of powerful deep notes increases. This use of music engages the viewer and builds tension in the scene. Due to the negative connotations associated with the music and the actions occurring in the scene give the viewer and idea of what is going to happen next, this use of music is just one example of how Tim burton uses music to develop foreshadow throughout the movie. Burton also uses lighting to develop foreshadow in the film. The use of lighting creates a mood around the object at hand, in gothic horror dark lighting is generally used to create moods in movies as it is related to negative things, it also puts some mystery in the scene. Burton uses lighting several times throughout the movie to develop many common conventions however I believe that foreshadowing is one of the main conventions used and the convention that has the highest impact on the viewer. An example of when this was used in the movie was when the ‘Headless knight came out of the tree’, this was the first time we properly saw the knight, When we are introduced to him it is located in a very dark setting in the middle of the woods. When the knight runs out there are flashes of lightning in the scene representing a storm is taking place, The dark lighting combined with the flashes of lighting both relate to negative things which hints at bad things occuring with the ‘headless knight’ This creates and overall conception of foreshadowing in the scene. Burtons use of lighting is very clever as he builds suspense and maintains the viewer’s interest in the film. Another technique used by Burton to develop foreshadowing is camera angles. Camera angles show who is the superior being in the shot, this can have a major impact as it shows who is in control and their actions and can show what is going to happen later in the movie. A great example of this is when the Horseman beheads the magistrate. Almost instantaneously after the horseman beheads the magistrate the is a low angle shot of the horse on its hind legs, the use of the low angle shot makes the horseman look very powerful and much superior to the others in the scene. This use of camera angle develops foreshadow because it physically shows us what the horse is capable of and what it will continue to do throughout the move. It gives the viewer insight on what will continue to happen in the film until the horseman has stopped. The use of low angle shots is very similar in both movie showing a superior being and showing the viewer what will happen later in the movie.  Using these 3 techniques Burton deliberately creates suspense and tension within these scenes, he intends to make the film as grueling to watch as possible by subtly hinting at what will happen next and giving the viewer and insight into what will happen next, this gives the viewer a sense that they know what will happen before the characters do.

The techniques used across both films both develop a common convention of gothic horror, Tim burton’s directing style effectively upholds the gothic fiction in his movies. His use of music, lighting and camera angles in both films demonstrates the impact the combination of these techniques can have on the audience. Burton effective use of Music dramatically increase the suspense within a scene and builds the climax of the scene. For example in sleepy hollow when he is hacking at the tree, the further he gets into the scene the faster and more intense the music gets, this continues until the scene hits the climax and the music cuts off, this increases the effect of the climax and increases the impact it has on the viewer.  This develops the theme of gothic fiction in these films as it helps create several conventions such as foreshadowing and the plot of the story. Burton has deliberately used these techniques to build suspense and subtly reveal sections of the plot to the audience. This creates many different emotions for the viewer as we feel as though we are part of the experience and we know something the character doesn’t, this makes us feel anxious because we know their actions will have negative consequences however they continue to do them. Burton effectively utilizes these techniques to have the greatest effect possible on the viewer and uphold the theme of gothic fiction in the film.

In conclusion, Tim burton’s unique directing style effectively upholds the theme of gothic fiction in his films. In this essay I have discussed the importance of the techniques used by Tim Burton in two of his films, the 3 techniques I discussed were Music, Camera angles and lighting and how they upheld the gothic fiction theme. Burtons use of these techniques helps develop the common conventions of gothic horror, this has a major impact on the audience and makes the film more exciting to watch the techniques also enforce the plot of the movie, for example at the beginning of Sweeney todd when there is and establishing shot showing the setting of where they live it is extremely dark and there is gloomy music playing in the background this enforces the statement that Burton is trying to make that the movie will be dark and frightening to watch.”Look at me, Mrs Lovett! Look at you! No, we all deserve to die… Even you, Mrs Lovett, even I! Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief. For the rest of us death will be a relief. We all deserve to die…”

Character- Significant connections



“Sometimes it’s not the person that changes but just that their mask falls off.” In my essay, I have chosen to explore the theme that “people prefer to hide their true identities so the can fit in with the people they associate with and society.” This theme is clearly displayed in many texts, however I have selected four texts where this theme is the most evident, these are the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The short story The Sniper by Liam O’Flaherty, the song That’s Not Me by Skepta and the movie Batman Begins which is directed by Christopher Nolan.



The first text I will be discussing is the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, at the beginning of the book we are introduced to the character Jay Gatsby as the story progresses we further understand how Gatsby changed his identity to become the person daisy Buchanan wanted him to be, Daisy is a character that is introduced later on in the story. the two characters Daisy and Gatsby had met 5 years earlier and Gatsby had fantasized about having a future with Daisy. To accomplish his lifelong dream of this he changed his entire personality and identity to attract daisy which is supported by the quote “he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception, he was faithful to the end.” Gatsby devoted his life to chasing daisy, he would hold parties in her honour in hopes that she would one day make an appearance and they could renew their love. Gatsby lived a life of false identity and false hope that he would fall in love with daisy but as we get deeper and deeper into the story cracks begin to appear in the persona he created and we started to see the real side of the corrupt man he really is.  Once his walls came down his dreams of living with daisy as she too had been fooled by the fake man he was. In the end of the novel daisy is faced with a choice to continue her relationship with tom (her current Significant other) or start over with Gatsby, she didn’t choose Gatsby as she had been exposed to the fact that he was living a lie and became the person she wanted him to be. “He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.” this represents how strongly devoted Gatsby was to this persona, even though he was living a lie he could persuade anyone with his charm and “reassuring” appearance.


The second text I will be discussing is the short story the sniper by Liam O’Flaherty. This story is about a young republican sniper that is fighting in the Irish civil war. The young sniper is located in a building during the late evening, he decided to take the risk of his enemies seeing him whilst he lit up a smoke, this was a terrible mistake as immediately the enemy fired a shot off at him but it missed him and struck the top of the parapet, the young sniper cautiously crawled to the left and took another puff from his smoke and his enemy once again fired another shot but the bullet flew just over his head, the sniper and now seen a flash from the opposite side of the street and knew where his enemy was, however, it was too late and the enemy sniper had got off a shot that hit the republican in the arm, this meant that he was unable to use his sniper, therefore, he developed a plan to kill the enemy sniper, his plan was successful and after this he began to leave the building and exit the war zone but, “When the sniper reached the laneway on the street level, he felt a sudden curiosity as to the identity of the enemy sniper whom he had killed.” he slowly approached the body he killed and “Then the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face.” This extract from the text represents how both of these brothers had hidden the fact that they were snipers in the army, in the end, this resulted in a fatal disaster. This relates to the great Gatsby because both of the brothers in the Sniper had to keep their ‘second life’ a secret from the people they cared about most, in the Sniper it’s their family and in the Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby kept his ‘Real personality’ from the people he cared about most, however in this text it was his friends. They both hid their ‘true selves’ from their loved ones for similar reasons, they both did it to protect them. they were just protecting them from different things such as the brothers were trying to hide the fact that they were in the army to stop the chance of having their friends and family worry about them risking their lives at war whereas Gatsby is protecting his friends from his true self as he believes he is a bad man and his new self is more of a gentlemanly person to be around and he thinks his old personality isn’t a good person.


The third text I will be discussing is the song that’s not me by Skepta. this song develops the idea of how he had to lie about his true identity to fit in with society and hide his true morals, “Nah, that’s not me Act like a wasteman? That’s not me Sex any girl? Nah that’s not me Lips any girl? Nah that’s not me Yeah, I used to wear Gucci I put it all in the bin cause that’s not me True, I used to look like you But dressing like a mess? Nah, that’s not me” this extract from the song represents how Skepta use to wear designer clothes to fit in with society however he stopped trying to keep up with the trends and began to wear the clothes that he liked regardless of what others thought of him. when he says ” Sex any girl? Nah that’s not me Lips any girl? Nah that’s not me” he is describing how he has multiple girls that would be willing to ‘get with him’ as he is a very famous musician and that he has enough self-respect to not kiss or have sex with any random girl. This is why he says he is not a ‘wasteman’, which is a person who does nothing with their lives and is a waste of time and space. another extract from this song is “Flashback to the cold nights in the trap Now I’m in a new whip counting the big stack,
Yellow-gold chains and the diamonds are black” This quote represents how Skepta used to have little money and he used to sell drugs in his ‘trap house’ (a crack house) to survive, however he now has a successful career he can afford many luxuries such as ‘stacks of money’ and fancy jewelry such as “gold chains studded with black diamonds.” as he mentions in the song This quote represents how Skepta had to be a different person to what he is now by doing things that are immoral just so he can make some money. This text relates to the sniper because in the sniper they had to keep part of their life a secret so they could fit in with their family and not be judged by their peers, this is the same in the song that’s not me, he acted like a different person or a ‘wasteman’ as he calls it to avoid his peers and society judging him. this causes both to be forced to do something they don’t necessarily want to but their situation has forced them into doing it, for example the sniper is put into a situation where he has to kill his brother during a war as he didn’t know it was his brother. and Skepta was forced into selling drugs as he had no money and that’s what he had to do in order to live a decent lifestyle these texts also relate because they are both trying to do the right thing not knowing it could have a negative impact as The brother was just doing his patrol and it resulted in him killing his brother, unaware that he was the enemy firing at him. And Skepta did immoral things to survive, that could have resulted in him going to jail for illegal actions.


The last text I will be discussing is the batman begins movie directed by Christopher Nolan. This movie is about a man by the name of Bruce Wayne who witnessed his parents death at an early age, decides to travel to the far east Asia and meets a mysterious man called Ra Al’ Ghul who is the head of the shadows of evil, he is then mentored by Henri Ducard in how to fight evil. after Bruce learns the skills he needs to banish the crime in Gotham city, he returns to the city only to find that is has been overruled by crime and corruption, he decides he needs to do something to change this and because he is the CEO of the Wayne enterprises applied sciences division he manages to create a figure that will lay fear in the heart of the criminals in Gotham. That figure was Batman. “I wear a mask. And that mask, is not to hide who I am, but to create what I am.” this quote from the movie represents how he made this persona to create something to be feared not to hide who he was, this shows that he was not afraid of the criminals he would be fighting it also develops the idea of how most people that ‘wear a mask’ are hiding something, where this is not the case in this particular situation. the illusion in this text is different to another example I have seen because in most texts I have read the character that is related to illusion is afraid of what will happen if people will find out about their true selves but in this text the character is not afraid of what people would think he just created ‘Batman’ to put the ideology of fear in peoples minds when they think of him. This text relates to the song ‘That’s not me’ by Skepta in the way that both characters have a hidden element in their lives for example Skepta suppressed his true identity by doing the mainstream thing all the time, like trying to keep up with the fashion trends as he mentions in the song he used to wear designer brands such as “Gucci” and “LV(Louis Vuitton)” and in Batman case he suppressed his true identity “You know how people have different sides to their personality? Sometimes… a person will have to actually lead a different life.” This quote from the movie shows that he hid a side of his personality which actually lead a different life than his other persona of Bruce Wayne. another way this text relates is that they are both just trying to make a positive impact with their actions. For example, Batman tries to end crime in Gotham without murder, and Skepta uses his music to create joy for his listeners.


“Sometimes it’s not the person that changes but just that their mask falls off.” I believe that everyone puts a mask over their face at some point to hide something they are ashamed of something they have done or something they would like to improve so they cover up the negatives to make it sound much better. After analyzing the illusion in the great gatsby, the sniper, that’s not me and batman begins I have shown that covering up some points of your life to protect can harm people you love and you should be completely honest with the people you are close with. Otherwise, it usually has a negative impact as we saw in the second text The Sniper.

By Matt Wilson

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