I remember back in elementary I was obsessed with "Nightmare Before Christmas." The thought of Sandy Claws and the Boogey Man scared me witless, but I couldn't resist watching the movie over and over and over again. I memorized many of the songs, was in love with Jack, the Pumpkin King, and wished Halloween was just as big in Manila as Christmas was because the creepy crawlies didn't seem so bad.
What hooked me in bait, line and sinker were the songs and the intricacies of the film's clay work. Only Tim Burton's brilliant mind could have dreamed up this other-world experience and say it's best translated in stop-motion photography filming, with grotesque figures singing and dancing to the haunting themes of the musical.
After Nightmare, I always associated Tim Burton with the strange movies... the psychotic ones with the haphazard colors and crazy scream scenes. Yes, he is the genius behind everything oddball, but beneath the visual magic of his films lies deeper truths. If not truths, then deeper insights.
The message in Nightmare was simple enough: there's nothing wrong with exploring possibilities, just know when to stop, admit defeat and stick to the stuff you're excellent at. Even as a kid, I got that easy enough. But I was lucky enough to catch two 2009 movies of Tim Burton a few days ago: Alice In Wonderland and 9.
Alice's story talked about self-belief. A line said by the Mad Hatter struck me the most: "Back then, you were much more muchier." he said, speaking to Alice when she was having one of her slaying the Jaberwocki is impossible bouts. "You've lost your muchness." As what happens with many of us when we grow up and start feeling the strains of adulthood. We lose that drive to reach for the unbelievable, the creativity to solve problems and the ability to see in full-color because society dictates only black and white.
Then, what I found most intriguing with 9 was the way the ragdolls were identified: 1 is the protective leader, 2 is the source of inspiration, 3 and 4 are the chroniclers of history: know your past to better define your future, 5 is guidance, 6 leads to revolutionized thinking, 7 defends and fights for all she loves, 8 guards his charges, and 9 is compassion. They all came from the scientist who gave his soul for life to these dolls, and they represent what defines mankind and humanity.
Watching the film, I thought maybe I'd be able to identify with one ragdoll, perhaps with 9 since he was the lead and brought about the salvation in the end, but I don't think the producers meant to identify with just one doll. Protection, Inspiration, Curiosity for Knowledge, Guidance, Forward Thinking, Fiercely Defensive, Strong and Compassionate are traits that define us a person. Some traits may be more potent than others but we all have a mix of these. It's what makes us human.
Tim Burton's films are meant to enrapture an audience visually, because as in any Hollywood hullabaloo, the entertainment factor is a must-have. But they go beyond it, if you're only careful to look closer at the movies. Don't give them the bad raps just because the storyline can seem weak at first glance. The plot was made easy so deeper introspection can happen.
Plan to torrrent and load Nightmare into my iPod. Ya never know what new insight it'll offer this time around. Thank you Tim Burton for your movie magic.