Sweeney Todd…Love – the deepest cut of all

Sweeney ToddHappiness is an elusive friend that we can spend our whole life chasing. If the world looks favourably upon us we may be fortunate enough to catch it and then hope to grasp it firmly by hand for the rest of our lives. As with any great friend that we walk with on our life’s journey, there are those jealous and decidedly unscrupulous types who wish to steal our friend for their own.

For a short time Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) would have been considered a happy man. He had a successful profession, a beautiful wife and a gorgeous baby daughter. The happily-ever-after fairytale could almost be considered complete. But (and there is always a but), powerful man-about-town Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) catches a glimpse of this almost perfect picture and desires to possess it for himself. With the help of his greasy henchman Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall), Turpin has Barker wrongfully arrested and shipped off to prison in Australia. With Barker out of the picture, Turpin is now able to step into his space and take what was never freely offered.

During the fifteen years of Barker’s imprisonment he is seduced by that other most powerful of friends who often springs to our defence in the darkest and most desperate times of need. Sometimes the only way to retain a semblance of sanity and protect ourselves from complete obliteration is to rest in the clutches of revenge. Thus Benjamin Barker is reborn as Sweeney Todd.

The film contains a trifecta of irresistible treats in the form of Tim Burton as Director, Johnny Depp as Barker / Sweeney, and Helena Bonham-Carter as Sweeney’s scheming accomplice, Mrs Nellie Lovett. Firstly, Burton always guarantees a true visual spectacle, and with his careful and considered eye for the beauty and wonder of contrasts, we can trust that his films will provide a sensory experience. Secondly, Helena Bonham Carter is wonderfully surreal, and utterly captivating. Whatever character she is portraying on screen she manages to add some unique part of herself into the role, resulting in an entertaining and radiant performance. And then finally there’s Johnny Depp…well for many reasons he is an absolute joy to watch. In Sweeney Todd he handles the difficult score with ease and once again delivers a heartbreakingly true embodiment of the character he inhabits. He is a master of conveying subtle underlying emotions, so that through his performance we come to understand why Barker had to become Todd, even though we never stop hoping that Barker will once more return to the surface.

While ordinarily even the hint of a musical chills me to my core, there is enough story and substance to be found in Sweeney Todd that I am captured regardless. And yes while there is music, there is also plenty of blood, but at least here it has a place as a vital part of the story. The red, red blood and the vividness of the music combine in glorious fashion to showcase the operatic drama of the story and highlight the dramatic evolution of Barker to Todd. Ultimately at its heart Sweeney Todd is a tragic love story which explores both the sweetness and insistent passion of first love and the consuming bitterness which arises from a love interrupted. It is a story which offers both a visual and emotional transformation that is well worth the experience.

14 Comments

  1. Crafty Green Poet

    good review, i should get round to watching this film, it has got Johnny Depp after all…

    Crafty Green Poet’s last blog post..Eclipsed

  2. Jo

    Yep, nice review…..I usually like Burton’s stuff and Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall are fab….

    Jo’s last blog post..Compass

  3. jan

    Thanks for the great review. I love musicals and have memorized “Sweeney Todd” songs. I can’t wait for a quiet time in the movie theatre to see this.

    jan’s last blog post..President Johnson and the Beagle’s ears

  4. PaulS (gingatao)

    Another excellent review. I’ve always loved T.S.Elliot’s Sweeney poems. There is something in the relationship between the backstory which you have traced so well and the nature of the crimes that gives the story it’s longevity, it’s mythic nature. Anoter great and throughtprovoking review.

    PaulS (gingatao)’s last blog post..My Dearest Enigma,

  5. Narnie

    Oh Im hoping to be able to watch this today – it has all the ingredients for a classic. Excellent review, you have a knack for conveying the essential info with style.

    Narnie’s last blog post..Gotta whack this one in today too?

  6. team gingerbread

    Excellent review. I’m a sucker for a good musical, and I share your sentiment towards senseless violence/bloodshed (see: American Gangster).

    Every time I was supposed to go see this one, the plans ended up falling through, so I’m probably just going to buy it when the time comes.

    team gingerbread’s last blog post..Numb

  7. Tracey

    Hi Crafty Green Poet – Yes I certainly agree with you on the Johnny Depp factor. For the good of the world I think it is simply our duty to support his film career…there is nothing selfish about it at all 😉

  8. Tracey

    Hi Jo – Tim Burton always has something interesting on offer in his films. He has a very distinct style and yet there is always something very different about his films. I love Alan Rickman too…maybe before I saw him in Truly, Madly, Deeply…but most definitely since then.

  9. Tracey

    Hi Jan – Based on your love of musicals, I expect you’ll really like Sweeney Todd. It only really has a minor ‘ewww’ factor with the whole pie-making thing. But you’re right, much better to wait until the crowds die down, otherwise the other people in the cinema can ruin the experience.

  10. Tracey

    Hi PaulS – Yes T.S Eliot…wonderful stuff indeed. I think at the core of any art form there is something fundamentally human to explore. Sweeney Todd is one such thing that can be assessed at all manner of levels. If only there was more time in the world to analyse all the elements which sit within different artforms.

  11. Tracey

    Hi Narnie – Did you get around to seeing Sweeney Todd yet? I hope so. I’d love to know what you thought of it when you get the chance. I certainly think that with Tim Burton’s stylish eye and the wonderful performances the film contains, Sweeney Todd will hold up well as a classic in years to come.

  12. Tracey

    Hi Team Gingerbread – I agree. When a musical is done well it is so very, very good…but when it is done badly it is almost impossible to sit through.

    I often miss seeing movies at the cinema and do the ‘buy the DVD thing’. Sometimes it’s easier anyway, then you can watch in the comfort of your own home and not be annoyed by other people. This is a ‘keeper’ for sure.

  13. Jo

    Yes, Truly Madly Deeply, a wonderful, wonderful film.

    Jo’s last blog post..Lit

  14. Tracey

    Hi Jo – I remember seeing Truly, Madly, Deeply at the cinema and I completely fell in love with Alan Rickman, yet at the same time was completely heartbroken. It is such a wonderful movie and I feel that it is high time I returned for another viewing…and some more tears.

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