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Tim Burton is a god.
Or else he's sold his soul to the devil. It's one or the other. And it doesn't hurt that he uses Danny Elfman's music.
Sleepy Hollow isn't Burton's best work, I suppose, but even his fair-to-middling stuff is miles ahead of the pack. And if one had any complaint at all about this film, it might be that, at the end of the day, it is somehow less than the sum of its parts - many of which are magnificent.
Right out of the gate you know you're in for creepy fun when that wonderful Elfman score wafts in over the studio logos as Sleepy Hollow begins. And check your retinal cones at the door; but for bloody red, the rainbow's saturated colors don't have a place in Burton's New York or Sleepy Hollow, although just when you least expect it, the palette takes a dramatic turn toward the bright inside Ichabod's dreams where his repressed youth surfaces.
Pasty white faces are right at home in both worlds, however. The wonder is that even amidst the wan faces and fens cloaked in fog, there is beauty: in the elaborate period costumes, in Ichabod's earnest eyes, in Katrina's gentle round face, in the Killians' heroism, in the surprisingly tender affection between the Hessian and his black Andalusian.
The cast of Sleepy Hollow, headed by Johnny Depp, is superb, of course. Depp is masterfully quirky as the twitchy and troubled inspector from New York. I particularly liked Michael Gambon as the Hollow's principle citizen, Baltus Van Tassel, and newcomer Marc Pickering quite holds his own opposite the more experienced Depp. Sadly, I think Christina Ricci was wasted here. Hers is just not a very meaty part, but she makes do with what she has.
And let's not forget Christopher Walken, who playes the Hession - when he has his head. Arresting and terrifying pretty well sums up his performance (perhaps any of his performances!)
What was most amazing to me, however, was hearing Tim Burton say, in the DVD commentary, that my favorite shot in the movie was a happy accident. In it, the judge (Christopher Lee) who sends Ichabod to Sleepy Hollow, leans forward to emphasize a point and as he does so, the sculpture behind him aligns with his shoulders so as to make him appear to be winged, like some dark angel. The world's greatest shot - an accident!
Sleepy Hollow is beautiful to behold and solidly entertaining. Definitely another one in the plus column for Burton.
Sounds from Sleepy Hollow
|"You have moved the body?"||-||Ichabod lecturing Dr. Lancaster.|
|"Are you so certain...?"||-||Katrina to Ichabod when he spurns her gift.|
|"How often do I have to tell you...?"||-||Ichabod is astonished that the people of Sleepy Hollow cannot assimilate the simplest facts... sadly these will be his last words to Magistrate Philipse.|
|"It was a horseman..."||-||Ichabod realizing what he's up against.|
|"I suppose..."||-||Young Masbeth's prediction.|
|"All right, this time..."||-||Baltus Van Tassel and company think Ichabod is washed up.|
|"I need able men..."||-||Ichabod rises from his bed much to Baltus' surprise and presents an offer nobody can refuse. Strike that. Only Young Masbeth cannot refuse.|
|"I should like to say..."||-||Ichabod doing what he can to put the crone of the Western Woods at ease.|
|"Do you know of the Horseman, ma'am..."||-||Young Masbeth bravely interviewing the crone of the Western Woods.|
|"The tree of the dead..."||-||Ichabod and Young Masbeth riding through the Western Woods, in search of the Hessian's grave.|
|"There is conspiracy here."||-||Inspector Crane puzzling over the mystery of who controls the Horseman.|
|"Magistrate Philipse, who tried to cut and run..."||-||Ichabod sifting through his suspects.|
|"It's just a spider..."||-||Ichabod is squeamish... about everything it seems.|
|"A strange sort of witch..."||-||Young Masbeth cannot believe his ears.|
|"Tis a hard lesson..."||-||Ichabod's hard lesson for Young Masbeth.|
|"Dear stepdaughter, you look as if you'd seen a ghost."||-||Lady Van Tassel to Katrina after she'd supposedly been killed.|
|"Rise up with your sword..."||-||The Horseman's governess calls to him.|
|"Is he dead?"||-||The essential problem with a murdering ghost.|
|"Run Katrina...!"||-||Lady Van Tassel believes Katrina is doomed.|