"I should not have come to this place" : complicating Ichabod's faith in reason in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow
Tim Burton’s films are largely thought to be exercises in style over content, and film adaptations in general are largely thought to be lesser than their source works. In this project, I argue that Burton’s film Sleepy Hollow, an adaptation of Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” expresses his artistic message, that imagination and the irrational are equally valuable lenses through which to view the world as scientific process and reason are, while simultaneously complicating the thematic concerns of the longstanding myth of the headless horseman, the supernatural versus the natural and the irrational versus the rational, and relating them to his personal anxieties about the parent child relationship. I do so by drawing parallels between the film and its immediate source as well as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, another chapter in the headless horseman myth, and two horror films from the 1960s. I compare the narrative structure, character relationships, thematic concerns, and cultural anxieties expressed in both the film and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to demonstrate that the film argues for a worldview allowing the natural and the supernatural and the rational and the irrational to coexist. I also point to the visual references Burton makes to scenes from Roger Corman’s The Pit and the Pendulum and Mario Bava’s La Maschera del Demonio, illustrating the manner in which they complicate the myth’s thematic concerns. My argument adds to Hand and McRoy’s assertion that horror film adaptations are a form of myth-making and to the growing sense that there is more to Burton’s art than flashy visuals.
The Pit and the Pendulum, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, horror, folktale, rationality, film, La Maschera del Demonio, adaptation, belief, reason, myth
Master of Arts (M.A.)