Corpse Bride

Muhammad Islam

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005) is a fantasy animated film directed by Mike Johnson and Tim Burton. This movie tells a story about a corpse bride who was betrayed and murdered by her fiancé. Corpse bride resembles the fantasy-romantic stories of children’s animated movies. The striking uniqueness of this movie is that the movie ends with a tragedy whereas other films for children would prefer a happy ending. Corpse Bride does not bring a joy to heart but it makes you appreciate your life and think about how doomed and ruined one’s life can be.

The story of Corpse Bride takes dramatic turns several times. Such turns are unpredictable and they grasp the viewers in what-happens-next excitement. Tim Burton’s talent in picturing a European village in Victorian age where a supernatural incident of a dead bride’s returning to mortal’s world and a mortal’s journey in the world of dead is astonishing. A grim Dark-bluish imagery of the total movie carries the viewers to the world where they can actually picture the story happening and feel like they are right there with the characters.

The storyline of the movie Corpse Bride involves romance, murder, fantasy, a touch of musical and heartbreaking tragedy. The story begins with a young man, Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) rehearsing his marriage pledges with his bride Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson) at Lord Everglot’s establishment. Victor’s parents are nouveau riche fish merchants and Victoria’s parents are spiteful aristocrats who are preparing the arranged marriage which will restore Everglot’s lost money and pride and raise the Dort’s social class in exchange. Victoria likes Victor at their first conversation over playing piano. Victor is a very shy man and he becomes nervous at the sight of Victoria. Victor was very nervous on the rehearsal and he messes the arrangement up by dropping candle from his hand in a clumsy move and setting fire on the Lady Everglot’s gown. An unknown Lord Lord Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant) who drops out of nowhere in scene takes pride in extinguishing the fire of Lady Everglot’s gown spurting wine onto it. The Pastor scolds Victor and embarrassed, Victor walks out. Victor has been given a little time to prepare for the rehearsal and he strolls out of the village in a nearby forest in the dark. The dark cold night shivers Victor. He practices his vows in the woods and puts his wedding ring on a dead root of a tree or he thought so. The root turns out to be the finger of a dead young woman clad in a tattered bridal gown, who rises from the grave claiming that she is now Victor’s wife. Spirited away to the surprisingly festive Land of the Dead, the bewildered Victor learns the story of Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), his new “bride,” murdered years ago on the night of her secret elopement. After being attacked and killed while waiting for her fiancé in a dark, scary forest, the Corpse Bride is bound and determined to never, ever be left again. Meanwhile, Victoria’s parents hear that Victor has been seen in another woman’s arms, and become suspicious.

Victor is taken to underworld of the dead and finds it very festive. He finds his dog that died in Victor’s childhood and it was a gift from Emily. He tricks Emily and gets back to mortal’s world. He tells Emily to wait in the forest and runs to Everglot’s place to tell what that he loves her. Emily soon arrives and sees the two of them together and, feeling betrayed and hurt, drags Victor back to the Land of the Dead. Victoria tells her parents that Victor has been unwillingly wed to a dead woman, but they believe she has lost her mind and lock her up in her bedroom. With Victor gone, Victoria’s parents decide to marry her off to a presumably wealthy Lord Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant). Emily is heartbroken by Victor’s deception, thinking he loves Victoria simply because she is alive. Victor, however, apologizes for lying to her, and the two reconcile while playing a piano together. Emily learns her supposed marriage to Victor was never valid. In order for their marriage to become valid, Victor must repeat his vows in the Land Of The Living and drink poison- thus joining her in death. Victor agrees to die for Emily. The dead ones go “upstairs” to join their union. After a quarrel with Lord Barkis -and realizing his greed for dowry – Victoria follows the procession of dead to the church. As Victor prepares to drink poison, Emily realizes that she is denying Victoria her chance at happiness the same way it was stolen from her. Lord Barkis interrupts them, and Emily recognizes him as her former fiancé – who is revealed to be the one who murdered her for her family Jewels. Lord Barkis tries to kidnap Victoria but Victor stops him. Lord Barkis mockingly proposes a toast to Emily claiming she’s “always the bridesmaid, never the bride!” accidentally drinking the cup of poison. The dead drag the “new arrival” away to the Land of the Dead. Emily sets Victor free of his vow to marry her, giving the wedding ring back to Victor and her wedding bouquet to Victoria before exiting the church. As she steps into the moonlight, she transforms into hundreds of butterflies, presumably finding her eternal rest, as Victor and Victoria look on.

At the end of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, one of its protagonists must also peacefully contend with the reality of the situation. What makes these moments that much more meaningful is that they are essentially the opposite of what we are taught about practical love: we respond to rejection with anger, contempt, and a passive attitude that is accusatory and/ or apathetic. We aim to move on. Burton’s characters are uplifting in that they encourage an idealistic view that love and hope should exist beyond hurt and pain, both of which are temporary. “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride” is how one character describes the aforementioned Corpse Bride. Unlike movies which attempt to disprove or rise above such negative sentiments, the characters of Tim Burton accept the grim reality of their situation and are content with their lot in life.

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