BFI London Film Festival
By Anna Bielak | October 12, 2012
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Tim Burton, John August, Leonard Ripps
Starring: Martin Landau, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Winona Ryder, James Hiroyuki Liao, Robert Capron, Atticus Shaffer
We all know perfectly well that Tim Burton developed a specific cinematic style very early on which he mastered the same way that one may run repetitions. Burton himself insists that the Frankenweenie’s main thread stays the same in both his 1984 short film and the 3D animated feature film that opened the 56th London Film Festival. However, while the acceptance of death in the short film suffered a backlash from suburban morality critics (and prompted Disney to fire Burton), nowadays it is an interesting and very contemporary thesis that science is neither good nor bad. It is rather indifferent; how we use it is of much more importance. There is no doubt that Burton breathes in and out the spirit of the times. There is a deep nostalgia in his soul that pushes him to clothe a new message in an old — and bit worn out — costume; yet Burton is one of the few filmmakers who knows how to blow the dust off of our cinematic habits and successfully synthesize the vintage style of slow-motion animation with new technologies. Within the shades of grey he tells a colorful and emotional story. Moreover, thanks to Frankenweenie, he resumes his own story and opens a new era with Disney Studio, which proved its willingness to take a risk with this film’s form and content.
The brand new Frankenweenie is much darker than the original version, but more touching as well. Burton pays homage to classic horror films. Light and shadow are juxtaposed with each other in brilliant ways, building the bizarre atmosphere of childlike dreams about a world teeming with monsters. Thanks to animation, Burton also fills in some blanks, not only at the visual level of the short, but in its inner world as well. The feature develops the short film’s slightly-drawn friends of Victor Frankenstein (voice: Charlie Tahan) with great minuteness. Burton’s freakish imagination calls into existence the shrunken Edgar “E” Gore (voice: Atticus Shaffer), melancholic Elsa van Helsing (voice: Winona Ryder), zombie-like Nassor (voice: Martin Short), Bob the Fatty (voice: Robert Capron), envious Toshiaki (voice: James Hiroyuki Liao) and the Weird Girl (voice: Catherine O’Hara) with her furry white, bizarre cat, who is no less pretty or clever than Sparky (Frank Welker) the dog. The role of resurrected dog becomes largely expanded as well. He is the most important hero and he is the reason (if we want to believe what Burton says) to remake Frankenweenie. Moreover, Sparky has a girl-dog-friend now, Elsa’s pet –- Persephone (Dee Bradley Baker) the poodle. As always, Burton creates a panopticon of freaks which is the perfect set for his coming-of-age story about impossible, but daring daydreams.
Bringing new heroes and heroines into the plot fructifies while mushrooming Burton’s world. Furthermore, it seems that Burton is finally looking back not only to his own childhood, but to the old dreams of other bad-boys who idolize beautiful monsters. Frankenweenie’s world is attacked by gremlin-likes creatures and mummified organisms, born several years ago in David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977). However, Burton’s film is not overloaded. Shot in black and white, the film is like a cup of dark, hot chocolate topped off with sweet, whipped cream. Frankenweenie is tasty both for children (who will fit perfectly well in Burton’s savage world) and adults (who will realize to what extent the sensitive Tim Burton is a hard-shell author). He is very patient, but extremely determined to bring his private visions to life. He is an enormous fetishist at the same time –- he is seeking cinematic magic in connection with the film’s fabric, and is thrown into ecstasy while playing with latex puppets. Thanks to 3D digital technology, we are totally immersed in his world, experiencing all of the emotions he is willing to share with us.