Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Sleepy Hollow" and why I like it

The Tim Burton version of "Sleepy Hollow" is one of my favourite movies. Some people might nod knowingly now and say something like "ah, Johnny Depp" - and, well, they wouldn't be completely wrong - but not completely right either.

I've always liked the story of the headless horseman, saw the Disney version (in which the school teacher - the original role of Ichabod Crane - really looks ridiculous) as a child, read the original story by Washington Irving.

And as far as actors are concerned, "Sleepy Hollow" has a lot to offer, too. Want some examples? Christopher Lee (too many well-known roles to mention here, most well known as "Dracula" or, these days, as Saruman from "Lord of the Rings") as Judge in New York, Ian Richardson (Senator Palpatine/the Emperor in "Star Wars" I, II, III and VI) as doctor of Sleepy Hollow, Miranda Richardson (by now known as Rita Skeeter in "Harry Potter" IV and V), Christopher Walken (will always remember him in "God's Army"), Christina Ricci (loved her as Wednesday in "The Addams Family") and, of course, Johnny Depp.

And, just as a little treat, the horseman himself is actually German - even in the original story. The "Hessian" he is called. That's an area in Germany, not too far from where I live.

What I like most, though, is the whole look of the movie. It's dark, it looks almost sketchy sometimes. Most of it seems to be in sepia tones. The surroundings of Sleepy Hollow look surreal, not only the gallows tree. There's Ichabod's strange instruments, the dream sequences, the fighting scenes, the many times the hero looses his consciousness in the movie (must be the most-fainting male leading character in a horror movie). There's deceit, betrayal, but also bravery and love - everything a movie really needs, especially a good horror movie.

I've liked most Tim Burton movies I've seen so far (even "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" which isn't really 'my' kind of movie at all), but "Sleepy Hollow" (together with the two animated works "A Nightmare before Christmas" and "The Corpse Bride" and his experimental animated short "Vincent") is my favourite. It draws me in every time I see it, even if it's as a small window on my computer screen while I'm doing other stuff. (Like writing a post about why I like the movie.)

For me "Sleepy Hollow" represents the perfect blend of horror and fantasy, taking the audience into a world far away from them (in time, if not in place) that's both realistic (to a certain degree mirroring the world in which the original story was written and set) and absolutely fantastic (with a dead man without a head riding out for revenge).

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