We tested the immersive exhibition “The Labyrinth of Tim Burton” at Parc de La Villette

After Madrid, the immersive exhibition devoted to the strange universe of Tim Burton opened its doors in the form of a “labyrinth” at the end of May in Paris and can be seen all summer long. From the threshold, the tone is set: lifting the heavy red curtains to enter the exhibition is like entering the mouth of a monster with sharp teeth straight out of the overflowing Gothic imagination of the American director. There, a buzzer helps to choose from four numbered doors to start the adventure. She takes us from room to room, a good fifteen, each of which deploys a particular theme such as “Misunderstood Monsters”, “Strange Places”, “Tragic Toys”, or “Love, Ghosts and Cemetery”.

American director and screenwriter Tim Burton in the mouth of one of his monsters, which is the entrance to his Labyrinth exhibition.  (BENOIT DURAND / HANS LUCAS / AFP)

An original, non-linear course

There’s no risk of really getting lost in this 5,000 m2 “labyrinth” erected under a fairground marquee. Because it is above all a question of offering the visitor an original and unique wandering resulting from his choices: there would be more than 200 different ways to go through it and no possibility of going back, except to go back to square one.

Surrounded by giant mushrooms, the Mad Hatter greets visitors in a room in Tim Burton's Labyrinth.  (LAURE NARLIAN / FRANCE INFO)

Push open this door and you’ll find yourself face to face with a huge spooky clown head mounted on springs and a wall of HaHaHa! neon green that will delight Instagram followers. Choose this other door and discover Victor and his dog Frankenweenie back from the dead, while a stormy rain streaked with lightning rages on the ceiling. Another door leads you into a forest of giant mushrooms with the Mad HatterAlice in Wonderland. One more step and the Cheshire Cat invites you to a game of hide-and-seek on the walls, when do not begin to swarm under your feet of hideous beasts in the room devoted to beetle juice. Penumbra shrouded in colors, strange climates, technological effects and half-magical half-gloomy music by Danny Elfman: we are not far from the haunted house of amusement parks, less the jitters, the more wonder.

The room dedicated to awkward clowns in Tim Burton's Labyrinth.  (FABIAN MORASUT)

The drawings of the maestro in the spotlight

If life-size statues bearing the effigy of the heroes of Tim Burton’s films sit enthroned in many cinemas, Edward Scissorhands (very successful) to Emily, the bride of the funeral weddingsail torn in the wind, passing through the disturbing Mr Jack, this exhibition mainly highlights the drawings of the director. Because with him, everything always starts with a drawing. Most of his time he spends scribbling the surreal images that haunt his tormented brain. His mysterious creatures, often monstrous, clumsy or tragic, are all visual metaphors of his feelings. Under minimalist exteriors, they say a lot. “The first time I went to work with Tim on Edward Scissorhands, all i got was a little drawing he made“, recalls Johnny Depp, quoted in a cartel at the exhibition. “One look at this drawing was all I needed to understand what Edward was.“.

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Three original drawings and watercolors by the director, shown in "Tim Burton

Along the way, you must therefore resist the urge to push the next door and take the time to admire the more than 150 original drawings, watercolors and sketches presented, including many preparatory drawings, sometimes rare or unpublished. We loved seeing some of them come to life on small screens, a poetic and ingenious way to show how ideas come to life in Tim Burton’s head. This labyrinth was also designed as a dive into the psyche of the prolific director, in the meanders “of his spirit and his inspiration“, explains Alvaro Molina, the Spanish scenographer of the labyrinth.

The Oyster Boy (The Little Oyster Child) by Tim Burton at the Labyrinth exhibition dedicated to the director.  (FABIAN MORASUT)

Some new treasures

We can regret that the course ignores certain characters and universes that we would have liked to meet here, such as Dumbo Or Sleepy Hollow. Fortunately, the exhibition has some nice surprises. Because all the creatures out of Tim Burton’s hat and at the end of his pencil have not been declined on the big screen, far from it. Some remained in the state of idea on paper. Others have taken shape for this exhibition. Our favourite? The adorable Boy oyster (The Oyster Boy), which Tim Burton evoked in 1997 in his collection of poetry The Sad End of the Little Oyster Child, who was being eaten by his father… His sculpture is a work of art in its own right. A sculpture that you want to cuddle. Macabre and twisted perhaps, the imagination of Tim Burton is above all that of a hypersensitive soul.

Tim Burton’s Labyrinthan exhibition produced with the Spanish company let’sgo, is on view until August 20 at L’Espace Chapiteaux du Parc de La Villette (1 hour visit), Quai de la Charente Paris 19th – Telephone 01 41 57 32 19

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