Reviewed: Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007, Tim Burton)

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Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Jamie Campbell Bower, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall

Studio: Warner Brothers

In what was their sixth collaboration, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have perhaps produced their best work together. An established Hollywood partnership, the Depp/Burton relationship benefits the quirky feel of the films that they have worked together on. This is most prevalent in the horror musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which fuses together Depp’s abundance of character with Burtons gothic aesthetic to form a film that best fits the original feel of the musical.

At the beginning, Depp’s casting as the singing Sweeney is an odd decision, with the character actor not known for his singing performances. However, the gamble is seen to have paid off, with Depp bringing a fun character to the insane barber, and a level of humour to the otherwise dark narrative. With an already established chemistry with Burton’s then wife, Bonham Carter, the films two leads play off each other with a quirky discourse that benefits the entire feel of the film. As Pie maker accomplice Mrs Lovett, Bonham Carter creates a character that is larger than life, and a perfect foil for the more outlandish Depp. Through working with these two multiple times, Burton is shown to benefit from the working relationship he carries with both people.

Supporting these two throughout the film, is a mix of acclaimed and unknown actors that personify their characters well onscreen. As antagonist Judge Turpin, Alan Rickman is given a freedom to become over the top evil, as if a musical villain had featured within a pantomime tour. Similarly, Timothy Spall (as the beadle) brings a comical villainy to his onscreen exploits, which is more hiss-able, than outright evil within the manner in which it is performed. Jamie Campbell Bower is easily the best inclusion within the film, as the lovestruck sailor Anthony. Driving the plot away from the pie making pair, Bower holds not only a the best part of the films progression but also the best singing voice. An unknown actor that has gone on to become somewhat established, his inclusion within this film brings a freshness to what Burton achieves.

In an unsurprising way, Burton’s gothic aesthetic compliments Sweeney Todd entirely. As a design choice to represent the shady aspects of Victorian London, the blur of gothic and quirky creates an illusion of grandeur alongside a claustrophobic feel of the films many deaths. Staging a symbolism that is so over the top to represent the past life of the title character, Burton’s aesthetic seems to become disjointed in the wider filmic picture.

Taken straight from the soundtrack of the musical, Sweeney Todd relies heavily on how the film is sung. Slightly adapted to best fit the movie, Burton’s decision to allow the lyrics to be sung in amore natural manner creates a transition between songs that works in progressing the films plot smoothly. With over 90 percent of the film sung, the standard of each actor in performing appropriately creates a film that feels high quality throughout its duration. All together, the films music not only complements the narrative but also highlights Burton’s adaptation as worthy of its staged counterpart.

Overall, the movie is one of the best collaborations between Depp and Burton. A film that will not be to everyones taste, Sweeney Todd blends the genres of both horror and musical into a engrossing and enjoyable film that works as a worthwhile adaptation of a popular staged show.

Plot – 4
Acting – 4
Direction – 4
Retrospect – 3
Overall – 4

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