Unfinished Business: Becoming a Bride
Featured In: Corpse Bride (2005)
Voiced By: Helena Bonham Carter
There is no shortage of Halloween themed films geared towards younger audiences but of the many multitudes that exist, I cannot help but feel that those composed of stop motion animation are by far the greatest of them. Films like The Nightmare Before Christmas that made such an impact that even years later, it is still renown as the de-facto Halloween AND Christmas movie all in one. ParaNorman that answered the question of how alive the undead can truly be and Caroline that showed us the nightmare our greatest dream can become.
Yet, it is in the film Corpse Bride that I find myself putting above these great films not for fear, horror, or even wonder. For love, passion, and a tragedy that tugs at even the coldest of heartstrings. The tale of the corpse bride herself begins some time before the film proper with a pretty young belle by name of Emily who is quickly enamored with a mysterious stranger.
Despite her father’s declaration that she is not to wed a man whom she had only recently met, Emily secretly makes a plan with him to elope. In the dead of night, she takes on her mother’s wedding dress, as per her dreams, and a satchel of gold and the family jewels, as per her husband-to-be’s request.
And so it was in the dead of night that Emily was murdered by the very man whom she had hoped to wed. Awaking as a corpse, Emily made a vow to wait for a man to set her free and so remained buried and forgotten near the old cemetery. That is until a young man named Victor happens to accidentally wed himself to her by way of practicing his marriage vows and inadvertently places the ring upon Emily’s skeletal hand.
As to Emily’s “husband,” Victor is a young heir to a nouveau rich family of fish merchants who forced him into an arranged family to a daughter of a noble family in order to raise themselves to those same ranks. Likewise, his bride-to-be, Victoria, is the heiress of a noble family without a penny to their name and ordered her to marry Victor to be rich again. Victor and Victoria both are surprisingly sweet and kind people despite their parents’ obvious faults and failures but I can’t honestly see a good relationship between them as what was shown with Emily and Victor.
Victor is shown to be quite the artist and talented pianist whereas Victoria is shown to be… uh… well… She’s nice and is willing to believe in Victor despite his seemingly crazy talk of corpse brides, land of the dead, and other such things. I’m sure that there is more to her character than what is shown or made obvious for the oblivious but there was little to nothing connecting her to Victor beyond the fact that the two of them grew up under similar circumstances and both have a pulse.
Emily… Now Emily despite her tragic circumstances leading both to her death and to her so-called marital bliss with Victor has shown herself to be a charismatic young woman who is as equally talented as Victor with the piano. In fact, one of the best scenes with the two of them involves them in a sort of piano duel that really shows off their respected talents of the musical arts.
Between the two of them, Emily has done much more for Victor than Victoria had in the little time that the two heirs had known each other. Emily had gone and found Victor’s departed dog Scraps and reunited the two as a wedding gift from her to him, and was more than willing to go to the Land of the Living to meet his parents and not realizing the ploy for what it was. Heck, the greatest tell of Emily’s true and honest love for Victor showed itself when it was revealed to her that though they had been bound in marriage, it wasn’t truly binding due to the fact that Death had already departed Emily from Victor’s embrace.
In order to truly be wed for eternity, Victor would have to repeat his vows to her in the Land of the Living and drink from the Wine of Ages, a poison that would forever stop his heart so that he may give it to her. In this moment, Emily revealed the greatness of her non-beating heart as she collapsed to her knees in despair with the proclamation that she could never ask that of him.
Emily’s circumstances, and those of the Land of the Dead, are incredibly unique as they are bizarre. It is blatantly obvious that the moment a person dies that they arrive in the Land of the Dead but they do so in a perfect mirror to the state of their own corpses. That is to say that the dead reflect how their bodies currently look in the Land of the Living with most being nothing more than bare skeletons. It’s rather strange how this works and throughout the film makes one wonder what would eventually happen when the entirety of the body is gone. That is, until Emily’s penultimate fate is made but that’s an ending I shan’t spoil.
Overall, the tale of Emily the corpse bride is a film that may not be frightening throughout its entirety nor one that revolts one from horror beyond the antics of the dead but it is a film that truly speaks of the tragedies of the dead, the living, and the heart that connects them both. In all my years watching cinema, there have been altogether a literal handful of films that made me weep. Corpse Bride is one of them and I applaud it for doing so.