April 13, 2008
Review - "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street " (on DVD)
- By Roland Hansen
For comments or to submit a movie review for possible inclusion on Delta Films site
please send an email to Critics@deltafilms.net
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: John Logan
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall
Based on the hit Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical. Sweeney Todd tells
the graphically gothic tale of Benjamin Barker, an unassuming London barber
sentenced to exile for the unforgivable crime of having a beautiful wife. Years
later he returns, murderously insane, and seeks revenge on those who have
Tim Burton is at his best, artfully meshing the powerful and beautiful music
with stunning visuals. He successfully creates a much more intimate
atmosphere than can be achieved on stage, with characters up-close and
personal, and he makes brilliant use of light/dark contrasts and color.
Although none of the actors are professional singers, each character is
portrayed very effectively with the acting and singing combined. The
cinematography, set designs, costumes, and makeup are all striking. The
horrific moments are graphically brutal and gory – Burton does not skimp on
the blood, and it even becomes intentionally over-the-top (the camera lens is
splattered at one point). But it does not seem gratuitous in that it IS the reality
of the story, and it also has a metaphorical role. The violence IS disturbing,
but you can cover your eyes if you're squeamish. There are also hilarious moments – especially "The Contest" with a rival
barber (Cohen), and the dreamy "By the Sea" sequence.
Johnny Depp is magnificently dark and brooding. His acting skill is
so great that he doesn’t have to say a word and his insanity fairly
radiates from his very being. "At last, my arm is complete again."
croons Sweeney Todd as he admires one of his efficient razors
after a long absence. Even so you never quite lose sympathy with
Todd in his descent into madness, blood lust and cannibalism. His
accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, is smitten with unrequited love and brings
new meaning to "waste not, want not" in her meat-pie bakery.
Helena Bonham Carter (Lovett) is a wonderfully colorful and
humorous contrast to the dark and gloomy Sweeney.
The paring of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp is pure magic.