Opening 3 Nov 2005
Something old, something new, something borrowed and many things blue and all good. Tim Burton returns to form after the self-indulgence of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This stop-motion animation film is a fairy tale in the grand tradition of the Bros. Grimm. Burton has a monopoly on making all things un-dead and macabre easy on the eye and appealing to the mind. Whether it is the characters’ Victorian faces, bodies or preoccupations or Danny Elfmann’s jamming soundtrack, especially when the skeletons hit the floor, but despite the subject matter, there is not a hint of the dread, muck and gore one normally associates with necrophilia, maggots, oozing body parts, bloody hatchets and knocking bones. The characters’ neo-expressionist faces coupled with the fragility of their bodies makes them into prize distillations of different kinds of people whose spirit informs their outward appearance, at least in their faces.
In an interesting amalgam of the stories of Undine and Orpheum, we meet two dead brides, albeit on different sides of the time continuum. Bride number one is Victoria. As her name implies, she represents every well-born woman of that age where girls went from daddy’s manor to their husband’s without ever really existing as their own person. It is her duty to marry the first bachelor, titled or not, handsome or not, nice or not, human or not, that comes along with enough hard cash to keep the Everglots out of the ultimate social shame: bankruptcy. Even if Victoria is for all intents and purposes “alive,” her funereal attire and wan expression, her sepulchral home and lack of purpose confirm her entombment among the living. Bride number two is Emily. She represents what happens when greedy merchant class parents marry off their daughters to the first lord that comes around, no questions asked; all in the name of turning their daughter into a lady. Emily was robbed of her dowry and murdered by her scoundrel fiancé on the eve of their planned elopement. Yet her world of the un-dead underground is full of joy and laughter. Ghouls with scars and other vestiges of their respective deaths are friendly, considerate and talented. Enter the groom. Victor is a talented and sentimental young man who is misunderstood by his parents, if acknowledged at all. A victim of his parents’ success, he is about to be married off to a lady he has not met. Victor is silent until he meets the brides. In his struggle between the dead world of Victoria and the colorful world of Emily, we meet a concerned maggot, a body-less French waiter, mutilated veteran gentlemen and even a gored Napoleon. As Victor comes into his own, one bride will discover love and the other will discover freedom, though not exactly as they may have imagined. And all of us can rest assured that at least through the prism of the 21st century, love may in fact conquer all. (Rita Pearson Schwandt)