All of Tim Burton’s movies—or at least his best ones—have a touch of heightened, gothic decadence from the early 20th century about them. From the art deco affectation of urban hell in Batman to the melodramatic acting of Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow. There is something old fashioned about his work. Yet for no film is this truer than Batman Returns, a haunting and sensuous tribute to the German Expressionism that informed many of Burton’s favorite horror movies.
In the 1930s, many expressionist directors emigrated to the United States to escape fascism, but their most undiluted work remained the shadowy and wordless masterpieces from an earlier age in the Weimar Republic. These films, often directed by the likes of F W Murnau and Fritz Lang, evoked psychological and emotional pains within their characters through their literal environments and mise en scene. The lighting of a sunrise, the architecture of a metropolitan wasteland, or the oppression of malevolent shadows informed the characters’ own anxieties and occasional euphoria.
And all of that is present in Batman Returns too. So much so that Burton gilded the lily by naming the one original character in the film after Max Schreck, the silent film star who played the cadaverous vampire in Murnau’s 1922 triumph of depravity, Nosferatu.
Thus it is fitting that Twitter user IhlaLaLaLa-LaLaLaLa has recut Batman Returns as a silent film every bit as expressionistic as the Schreck film that inspired Christopher Walken’s antagonist. While we would never condone downloading a new cut of the film, fans will at least be pleased to know it exists (and how to find it) in the below Tweet.
Many of the film’s best sequences are often wordless, in any case. It is arguable that there is no scene in film or comic book that better articulates the loneliness, despair, and almost maniacal drive in Batman’s soul than how Burton frames a deadened Bruce Wayne coming to life upon the Bat Signal being lit. At last, a razor-sharp purpose has been restored to his hidden and often conspiratorial existence.
Adding a blue filter and film grain to that scene only somehow highlights more the beauty of what Burton captured in 1992.