Sleepy Hollow Essay, Research Paper
Looking at literature through a director s critical camera lens is an effective way to view a piece of literature as well as history. Through a visual adaptation of Washington Irving s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow , Tim Burton takes on the challenging task of effectively entertaining an audience as well as retelling a part of history. Burton tries to recapture Irving s story by combining the physical surroundings of the 18th century with the element of Hollywood. Burton s interpretation works adequately in various parts of the movie but eventually takes on a life of its own by the grandiose scene of Hollywood. This portrayal of literature neglects the literary but does attempt to situate the audience historically.
Icabod Crane, characterized by Irving as a tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves (950) dramatically changes in Burton s representation. Burton utilizes the popular young handsome face of Johnny Depp. The identity of Crane drastically changes as this element of Hollywood inserts itself, creating a barrier in portraying Irving s story accurately. The lead male, Depp, enters the town of Sleepy Hollow, not like the lanky man Irving portrays, but exuding professionalism and expecting respect from the townspeople. Although Crane is inaccurately cast, the character of Katrina Van Tassel played by Christina Ricci, is similar to Irving s description. Irving writes Katrina was a blooming lass of fresh eighteen…and rosy-cheeked (1288). Throughout the film her character consistently looks like a person who could have lived in the 18th century.
Along with the character of Katrina Van Tassel, the environment in which Burton chooses to set the film does represent a true depiction of a small town. The greenery, the houses, the music, the parties, and the government all display interesting parts of a small community. An addition Burton makes that contributes immensely to the story is the small town government. Irving story briefly introduces us to the Van Tassels, but Burton extends the written word and formulates a believable system that incorporates al the necessary functions to govern. Burton s attempt to recreate Irving s story hits several speed bumps along the way. The original story focuses on the character of Crane as a person from an outside narrator, while the movie turns Crane into a constable. Crane is sent to investigate the decapitation of several townspeople. Other historical misplacements show themselves when Burton sets the story in 1799 approximately twelve years before Irving s setting. This creates a problem for Burton construction of an accurate literary adaptation.
Icabod Crane portrayed in Irving s story, shares similar characteristics to Dr. Rappaccini in Nathaniel Hawthorne s short story of Rappaccini s Daughter . Hawthorne s character has an eerie presence, he is described as tall, emaciated, sallow, and sickly looking man (1288). Although Irving s character does not portray characteristics of sickly like Dr. Rappaccini, his attributes consist of those resembling the odd man whom people question. Another characteristic Crane shares with Dr. Rappaccini, seen only in the movie, is the element of science. Dr. Rappaccini, the scientific gardener (1287) and Burton s depiction of Crane are somewhat shunned by the outside because of the science they explore. Burton s Crane uses science as a tool of investigation of death. The outside communities of New York and Sleepy Hollow do not understand this method of investigation because the presence of other beliefs.
The advantages to viewing this movie as a piece of history come from the Gothic scenery of New York in 1799 and the mysteriousness of foreign ideas. Burton, although deviating from the literature, he does take the viewer to the physical environment of New York and Massachusetts. The entrance of Crane comes with a Gothic background of New York, exposing the fantasy and dreamlike characteristic of the movie. The attitudes towards science, in the movie, show that the majority of people were turned off by laws or principles of science.
Throughout the movie the viewer gets a glimpse of the harsh reality of the late 1700 s, sometimes even extending reality by depicting the manner in which small and large governments assemble. As viewers we watch the scenes as a means not to be educated, but entertained. In reading the story and viewing the movie, one can see that Burton did not ignore the humor in Irving s short story. There are several instances where the viewer is fully aware of the sarcasticness of Crane and the townspeople. This kind of humor also displays Crane s presence as a foreigner, who did not understand small towns and how they functioned.
The problems with the film bringing in the past to life comes in when Burton romanticizes too much. The original story line does not stay intact and the modifications of portraying history only create an interesting story. Burton uses too much freedom therefore, making the movie a factitious version of Irving s amazing tale.