Jan 28, 2008

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

The original Sweeney Todd was written in 1847 by a thirty-two-year-old Liverpool playwright by the name of Christopher Bond. It has been one of the most popular plays in the history of British theatre. But the characteristic Hollywood off-beat heroes Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Helena Bohnam-Carter team up to make the gruesome even more gruesome - as now it has the power to be displayed on screen.

Despite the blood and gore and meat being pressed into pies, I found myself sympathizing with the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The movie is - in its spirit, anyway - sympathetic and charismatic. From the white streak in Depp's hair to the cute rendition of Pirelli's famous oil by Toby the little master, the production design is magnificent. Tim Burton, the genius striking oil, is behind this whole machinery and what I love about this guy is that he actually has the sense to see the deeper meaning in the everyday characters that we've come to accept unconditionally. For Willy Wonka, when Warner Brothers came up with stereotypical ideas, he said,

"They thought the Charlie character should be more proactive and that Wonka should be more of a father figure, and I'm sitting there thinking, 'Willy Wonka is NOT a father figure! If that's your idea of a father figure, yikes.' Willy Wonka's a weirdo."

The lyrics to Sweeney Todd have been yet another plus. Stephen Sondheim, the man behind West Side Story as well as the original Sweeney Todd adaptation, is a co-writer of the film and has probably broken his previous records of perseverance and musical talents as he must have coached the entire casts (not to assume that the cast was a bunch of dummies themselves - I'd like to see him try that on Reema, maybe, and then he truly WOULD be a magician) - the whole set up works almost lyrically. The entrance of Todd into London with,

"There's a whole in the world like a great black pit
and the vermin of the world inhabit it
and its morals aren't worth what a pin can spit
and it goes by the name of London"

and Depp's fluent, spiteful, hate-filled voice smoothly makes you truly hate London and its pits. Needless to say, the entire film is a shockwave to the senses with its combination of blood and ballads. The greatest success of this movie is, perhaps, making all of that work in coherence with the theme, the music and even the corny London cockney and "I feeeeeel youuuu, Joooaaaannaaaa!". Regarding the chemistry of the film, Stephen Sondheim remarks,
"The show is really about obsession ... Todd is a tragic hero in the classic sense Oedipus is. He dies in the end because of a certain kind of fatal knowledge: realizes what he has been doing."

It is receiving raving reviews all over and deserves to. Depp has already bagged the Golden Globe. If Daniel Day-Lewis hadn't been in the picture - I'd say he'd get the Oscar too.

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