WHO is he?

American film director, painter, writer and producer who has been working since the mid-eighties with 16 feature films to his credit. A horror film aficionado as a child, Burton began making short films with a Super-8 camera as a teenager. All his subsequent films capture this childlike fascination with horror as a genre.

What are his films about?

Themes

Many of Burton’s characters are classical outsiders, outcasts who dwell on the fringes of an established society and who, eventually, get assimilated into and recognised by that very society. This identification with the outsider perhaps stems from Burton’s own fringe position in Hollywood — a place where his personal vision has been regularly deemed too eccentric for mainstream taste. His characters, many of which recur in one form or the other throughout his filmography, are also neurotic, reticent, introversive and socially awkward.

Style

Burton’s cinema draws inspiration from German Expressionism, Gothic Horror, the stop motion animation of pioneers such as Wladyslaw Starewicz and contemporary graphic novels. The singular, painterly visual style of his cinema is marked by a dark black-blue colour palette — which is sometimes juxtaposed with brighter ones with startling results — grotesque character appearances and an interplay of light and darkness. Burton frequently collaborates with actors Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter and music composer Danny Elfman, who has scored for nearly all his films.

WHY is he of interest?

Tim Burton is one of the few auteurs working within Hollywood and making very personal films on a large-scale. He is also one of the handful of filmmakers in the industry whose signature is primarily visual. His name not only evokes a specific moral universe in mind, but also recalls a particular visual schema — a response that not many filmmakers could boast of. He is also among the most famous producers of stop motion animation films in the world.

WHERE to discover him?

Edward Scissorhands (1990) narrates the story of an artificially created man who has a bunch of blades for hands, as he wanders from isolated laboratory premises to an upscale suburb nearby. Burton’s warm and humorous film is a sharp satire about the hypocrisy and intellectual and emotional shallowness of suburban America and questions whether what is considered morbid and monstrous is any more reprehensible than what dwells under the serene veneer of middle-class life.