Director Profile: Tim Burton

Tim Burton

The auteur theory was first developed by New Wave directors, including Jean-Luc Goddard, as a way of distinguishing those who merely follow scripts and stick to the limitations placed on them by studios from those who impose their own vision onto their projects.

This theory has its fair share of critics. There are those who see film-making as a collective effort, and therefore it is unfair to see the final product as the sole work of the director. There are also actors, lighting and sound engineers, set designers, makeup artists, cinematographers, composers, screenwriters, and film editors involved in the process who contribute a great deal to the project.

While most of these artists contribute to the overall mise-en-scène (set design, character’s behaviour,…), auteur critics do acknowledge that it is the mise-en-shot (camera positioning, duration of each shot, framing) that make the difference between films and can distinguish certain directors from everyone else.

Films made by Tim Burton are easily identifiable. They incorporate his beliefs and values. They feature actors and crew members that are frequently a part of his team. Furthermore, the stories are told from his perceptive, both in terms of themes and style (mise-en-shot).

Keeping genre, themes, mise-en-scène, and mise-en-shot in mind, these notes will analyse a number of Tim Burton films to prove that he is, in fact, an auteur in every sense of the word.

Tim Burton’s Point of View

Tim Burton spent the majority of his childhood as an outsider. He grew up in suburbia (Burbank, California) and because he wasn’t like everyone else, he was often misunderstood. His childhood experiences living in the suburbs left him with the belief that society tries to stifle anything that makes people individual. His anti-society views started early on.

Burton spent a lot of his time as a child watching horror films (especially monster movies) and drawing. He enjoyed watching films with monsters who were misunderstood by those around them. The films that moved him were mainly stop-motion animations and films that reflected German Expressionism. Before he started directing his own films, he enjoyed the conceptual work he was able to do for Disney studios.

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