Here is another guest by my good friend Jamie.
Hey, It's Jamie again! Today I'm going to be reviewing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the horror/musical adapted to the screen by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, along with Alan Rickman. There are several reasons why I wanted to review this movie; it's multi-faceted and you can look at it from many angles. I'm going to start off explaining how I, a sheltered homeschooler, got around to seeing a movie like Sweeney Todd and why I actually enjoyed it. I'll cover the plot, the music and a few of the characters, too. While the film is not for everyone, it was a fascinating piece to view and I hope you will enjoy my post.
Short Plot Summary: The film retells the Victorian melodramatic story of a revenge-seeking Sweeney Todd, a English barber who becomes a serial killer who murders his many of his costumers, then allows his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, to process their corpses into meat pies, while he waits for the man who destroyed his family and life to come pay the barber shop a visit....
Warning to Viewers: this film is rated R for graphic bloody violence. I would not recommend anyone under the age of sixteen to view unless you are used to seeing bloody films or have someone there to warn you when to look away if you prefer doing that.
I was maybe fifteen or sixteen when I first crossed paths with Sweeney Todd and it was through the soundtrack. I was in a habit of bringing home a lot of soundtracks from the library to listen to, and one day I picked up Sweeney Todd without realizing it was a musical. However, upon listening to it, I discovered I really liked some of the songs. I managed to paste together the story's idea via the lyrics and pictures in the cd's booklet. Songs like "The Worst Pies In London" "Johanna" "Pirelli's Miracle Elixer" "By the Sea" and of course the vicious "Epiphany" quickly became my favorites and the ones that I re-listened to the most.
It wasn't until this past Spring that I started borrowing darker movies to watch and re-stumbled over the film while making a list of all the Tim Burton and Johnny Depp movies I wanted to see. Because of my recent love of dark Victorian tales and my familiarity with the songs, I got up the courage to borrow the film even with it's R rating. And that's my long journey that led me to finally watch the film.
As I said above, you can look at this movie in different ways. This is the story of a mad man who committed unbelievably cold acts of murder while being completely obsessed with seeing the one man who wronged him suffer his deserved revenge. This is also the story of a once husband and father who lost all that was dear to him and was himself inwardly destroyed and lost all will to live outside of revenge. It's a story where everyone is both a hero and a villain; well, except for Alan Rickman's character, of course.
When you look at it, it's an extremely dark story with extremely dark elements: lots of murder, rape (alluded to, not shown), cannibalism, ect. To me, the ultimate message of the movie was that revenge, however sweet at the moment, is not healing. Revenge only brings on more death and you end up hurting those you care for most.
Johnny Depp was amazing. According the special features on the disc, he had never sung before and the first song he ever sang was "My Friends". Even though he's not a professional singer, he did a fabulous job with his songs and really brought out many depths of emotion for his character: broken-heartedness, anger, oily smugness. His acting earns, of course, an A+ from me.
As to my thoughts on Sweeney Todd, or Benjamin Barker, himself: I felt very sorry for him. While there was nothing to excuse his acts of murder, he was actually doing something that made sense to him. Without knowing the message of grace and redemption from Christ, Sweeney could only come to the conclusion that all men deserved die and he was willing to do the job himself. "Emphiny" bring this thought process to life.
I feel very sorry for Sweeney for how he came to that state; especially when in the flashbacks at the beginning of the film you see that he was once happy. What I did love about Sweeney was how much he loved his wife and daughter even though he had lost them, you can tell he had invested his life into them. So when they were taken, he became like one dead. Overall, he's actually a simple but interesting character who should certainly make you sympathize his plight.
Mrs Lovett was played by Helena Bonham Carter; I've loved her singing voice since I first heard "Worst Pies In London" and I loved seeing her act; she and Johnny make a great couple. A personally side note; I would love to cosplay Mrs Lovett someday because she's a) beautiful b) has a wardrobe that I love (neck line could be higher but besides that) c) she has a fun accent that I can actually manage out when I sing her lines d) I love almost all of her songs and e) I can easily relate to the henchmen role that she has.
As to the character Mrs Lovett herself: she's a great sidekick for Sweeney. You can quickly tell she loves him and wishes he returned her feelings. By the end of the film, however, it's clear that her love is only a selfish love and it doesn't keep her safe around a man like him. As a person, she's rough around the edges, full of good intentions and a horrible cook until she starts using Sweeney's victims in her pies; then, grossly enough, her business picks up. She becomes a mother figure to a orphan who was the servant of Sweeney's first victim and she cares for him very much, showing she has a tender heart afterall. I really like Mrs Lovett and I feel sorry for her too because there was never a chance for Sweeney to return her love.
About eighty percent of this movie is music. While it's not sung all the way through like Les Miserables, the story is carried by song and the use of actual dialogue is a small. The songs themselves all pull together well. The singing feels more natural then the musicals where out-of-the-blue the characters go from talking to doing a musical number in the streets. The characters sing as though it is their way of communicating their emotions and problems to each other. It works for me. Below is opening titles.
Overall: Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a sobering, dark story full of beautiful songs that speak of the depravity of the human race and how it effected one man's life for the worst. This film is not for all. But those who enjoy dark Victorian England, musicals, horror or just the overall world of Tim Burton, should give this film a try if you can stomach the gore that comes with it (or can watch through your fingers like myself). What I took away from the film is that revenge, no matter how sweet, is never the ultimate answer.
And make sure you know what's in your pie before you take a bite....