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‘Corpse Bride’ Film Review: A charming grave fairy tale

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Behind its eerie theme, Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” presents a morbid and romantic trip between the cold dwelling place of the living and the colorful underground realm of the dead. Fun, genial, expressive, and charming, this semi-musical stop-motion piece is set at death’s door, saluting the liberating power of true love and sacrifice.

The story revolves around a young groom-to-be who mistakenly weds a girl from the grave and complicates his upcoming marriage to the woman he loves.

The directors paint death as a more colorful plane of existence compared to life, as literally shown on the visuals — a bitterly cold presentation of the world of the living as compared to the colorful and musically vivid world of the rotting flesh. It turns out there is more life at the dead’s company.

The engaging story, the expressionistic visuals, and the heart for the very statement it wants to insinuate make an overall witty animated tale. It is whimsical yet eerie, funny but melancholic. On a light, side-splitting note, it promotes a necrophiliac entertainment which can find a good place at the hearts of people who like watching a pile of bones set in an ironic and animated space, whether or not it is the Halloween season.

Tim Burton, along with co-director Mike Johnson, ventures into the world of stop-motion animation for this motion picture, rendering that tedious job of hand-manipulating characters that move incrementally — to be shot frame by frame.

So how tedious can this work be? A film is made up of shots. Each frame gets shot; each shot becomes 1 frame. From 1 frame to another, the movements are incrementally shown over a certain period of time. In film, the standard is 24fps. Taking it from here, one can just imagine the challenge of shooting each frame of “Corpse Bride” with 24 shots done for a 1-second clip of the film, 48 shots for a 2-second clip, and so on. Each frame gets carefully shot with the involvement of human hands, rightfully moving the different parts of the body of each character for 1 frame, then move all the body parts incrementally to shoot the next frame and make sure everything complements the previous movement of the character. Each frame requires very dexterous hands moving the subject creatively and effectively. According to IMDB.com, instead of film cameras, tthe filmmakers used 31 commercial digital still photography cameras, particularly the Canon EOS-1D MARK 2 SLR, interestingly with Nikon lenses.

The musical score by Danny Elfman, just like Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter who are Burton’s frequent collaborators, makes a delightful mix of flight of fancy for the film. A stylistic and touching moment to create a more human tone on the love story is shown in many ways as the accurately presented piano scene of Victor and the Corpse Bride. Overall, the musical parts are very flourishing. As usual, Burton’s team makes up a new world out of the dark and expressionistic style Burton is known for.

The story may not be as refined as the usual art-house works, but this picture makes a poetic form out of what it has. Its minor flaws are easily overlooked as the eyes roll over its Burtonesque-style of storytelling. Its imaginatively done puppetry promotes a dark and grand fairy tale brimming with quirky characters and gothic sets.

“Corpse Bride” is a darkly enchanting tale about the celebration of love that is told in a quirky, gothic, and ironic style. It has the courage to address issues about love and sacrifice and life and death in a shadowy, poetic, and creatively bizarre way.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne Hill Soriano is a freelance production artist working as a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. 
http://www.riannehillsoriano.com
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