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…”

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