Tim Burton rings in my ears as one of Hollywood’s most eccentric directors. There is a distinct and unique phenomenon in his films: the genre of his most films are between animation films and real person films; his animation films overturn the world of traditional fairy tales, showing the darkness of horror, but did not give us the feel of fear. Nightmare before Christmas, which reflects his typical paradigm, is a fantasy mixed of horror, magic, darkness, holidays, the jolly guys, and an interesting skeleton.
The features of Nightmare before Christmas have a similarity with Bakhtin’s theory of carnivalesque. In Bakhtin’s view, everyone lives a carnivalistic life as long as those carnival laws. His feel of carnival is full of grotesque realism, which can get rid of the horrable things in the world. And the grotesque style can also turn the world into a bright and cheerful one. (Bakhtin,1989). There is always a feel of carnival surrounded in Nightmare before Christmas. Because of the feel, audience can get away from the fear successfully.
On the other hand, Bakhtin believes that carnivalistic life is a life drawing out of its usual rut; it is to some extent life turned inside out, the reverse side of the world.( Bakhtin,1989) Similarly, Burton sets two worlds to make a comparision: the human world and underground world; the grotesque world of Halloween and the happy world of Christmas. The confrontation of the two worlds represents Burton’s inclination. The happy world is boring while the eerie wolrd is vivid and interesting. In my Nightmare before Christmas lingers on the edge of conventional culture and popular culture, it challenges the conventional culture and queries on the popular culture. So Burton makes an utmost effort to prove the rationality of his subversion in this film.
It takes delight in talking about Burton’s Gothic darkness of horror. The story happens in the world of ghosts and monsters where we are totally un familiar. The vampire bats, red eye demon , black monsters and even the wretched green, these gothic images are everywhere in the film. They stand in stark contrast to the simplicity of traditional animation films. However, the audience feel more closer to them and come to realize their subsistence status trenchantly.
The American animation films have a heroism complex, but Burton deconstructs our expectation of the traditional hero. In Nightmare before Christmas, the character Jack is frightful and he has no mission to save the world. Other character is treated equally, eg. the pet comes along with Jack is soul of a dog instead of a brilliant white horse. More importantly, Burton wants to create a balance between creepy and interesting. So he gives life to the grotesquery Jack who actually is virtuous. He demonstrates the characters’ individual emotions and action which has no relationship with hero. Specificly, the modeling of Jack’s eyes are just two black holes which thoroughly give expression to the meaning of the character.
Let’s turn to the other film: No Country for Old Men
In this film No Country for Old Men the genre pushes the envelope of sanity. It is an unconventional western film, mixed with action, crime drama and dark humor. The McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men is an ideal vehicle for the Coen brothers, who have used violence and emptiness laced with dark humor as an artistic aesthetic in their directing careers.
The film’s greatest achievement is its ability to transport the audience into a world where the predestination, death, fears, choices, morals and realities of life are strikingly brought to life and make the audience reflect upon and look back with careful consideration after the whole experience. The violence and bleakness of it all is not to simply evoke reaction or engage the audience, it is to tell a story and impart an experience of great intention, to which the Coens have brilliantly succeeded.
To some extent, this film is a character study of Sheriff Bell, an honest lawman who is wise, observant, grounded in reality, and has a long memory. No Country for Old Men is really his story. And also, The Coen brothers’ direction of the particularly intense chase scenes between Chigurgh and Moss are masterful, evoking emotions of suspense to the highest level and pushing the audience to the very edge of their seats.
At the same time the movie is a character study on the effects of evil and innocence lost, an exploration on the themes of fate and chance, an analysis of the freedom to choose and its consequences, a reflection on evil and good as forces of society and the investigation of basic human emotions such as hope, fear, love, violence and aspiration in the face of a variety of situations.
The ending of the film is about death. Faced with the overwhelming fact of death, all of us humans find meaning only by making up their own spiritual codes. The murderer’s code, the good old boy’s code, the sheriff’s code, the wife’s code—they are all equally meaningless, equally inadequate in the face of death, but they are all perfectly legitimate responses to the fact of universal death. The film is also about predestination and free will, Chigurgh doesn’t believe in free will, “I got here the same way the coin did” , he is almost like a robot , and scientifically he is totally right we don’t have free will , Chigurgh is not guilty , he just has killer genes and his mother didn’t hug him so that’s why he turned out to be this way, there are no choices in matter , just cause and effect , only quantum psychics can show some difference.