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Sweeney Todd

Never Forget. Never Forgive. 

Year: 2008 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Tim Burton 
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman  
An image from Sweeney Todd

Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd brings Stephen Sondheim’s critically acclaimed musical to the big screen successfully. The film tells the romanticised story of the infamous Demon Barber of Fleet Street; here the motivation for Mrs Lovett’s cannibalistic pies is Mr Todd’s thirst for revenge against the brilliantly repulsive Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) for destroying his family. Helena Bonham Carter is Mrs Lovett, Mr Todd’s culinary sidekick, with a hopeless infatuation for the rage fuelled murderer.

This is of course a musical, and whilst one may not be surprised that a Tim Burton movie should star Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter side-by-side, it might be more surprising to find that they’re both rather good singers. Even for those who aren’t typically fond of a musical, these songs are a treat, they are deeply emotive and at times add a delicious dash of dark humour.

True to a Tim Burton flick, this is a visually striking film, with a palette of gloomy, grey colours, to contrast the generous splashes of red. Ultimately, this is a darkly enchanting tale, driven by a stellar cast including Timothy Spall, up and coming star Jamie Campbell Bower (Mortal Instruments), Sacha Baron Cohen (better known as Borat) and even a brief cameo by Anthony Head.

If that’s not enough to convince you, Johnny Depp won a Golden Globe for his role and an Academy Award nomination and both Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton were nominated for Golden Globes. Indeed Johnny Depp is wonderfully brooding and menacing, though still able to win our sympathy; a serial killer to remember.

Elena Prest

After being transported and imprisoned for several years for a crime he did not commit, former barber Benjamin Barker (Depp) returns to a grim and decrepit London, to find that his wife has committed suicide and his daughter is in the hands of Judge Turpin, (Rickman) the judge whose corrupt law kept Barker in exile for fifteen long years. Hungry to seek revenge for the suffering he has endured he takes on the new identity of Sweeney Todd, and resumes his role as the town barber. But this time he uses his razor for far more sinister purposes as he gradually gets his revenge on all those that have done him wrong...and a few others along the way. Todd opens a barbers above Mrs. Lovett's (Bonham Carter) Pie Shop and with her help he tries to rid London of the 'vermin' that inhabit it. The remains of his victims provide Mrs. Lovett with the perfect ingredients to improve 'the worst pies in London.'

There are three things that particularly stand out in Tim Burton's adaptation of the hit Broadway musical. The first is the intensely dark atmosphere created by the striking cinematography that paints a grey, grimy residue over Victorian London. Every scene is constructed of ghostly streets drained of colour, and characters that show their anguish in their grey, gaunt faces. This grim yet oddly beautiful ambiance creates a dramatic contrast to Todd's vibrantly coloured flashback scenes, which show the happy life he lived before he was transported.

The extraordinary amount of bloodshed is another particularly prominent aspect of the film. Although there is enough blood and gore for at least five slasher movies, none of the violence is flippantly used and is necessary to show Todd's thirst for revenge and intense hatred for mankind. If you're not a fan of blood and gore, don't let it put you off, as the third element which really makes this film worth seeing is Stephen Sondheim's musical score, and the impressive performances by the cast, none of whom were previously known for their singing abilities. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter both offer passionate performances and manage to successfully tackle the catchy, original songs that are great to listen to, but probably very difficult to sing.

Sweeney Todd sees Tim Burton revisiting horror whilst exercising his usual style of quirky, atmospheric settings and eccentric characters; he is successful in manipulating the elements of the musical to create a delightfully dark, must see treat that will keep you riveted right up until the surprising conclusion.

Amy Flinders

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Screenings of this film:

2007/2008 Summer Term (35mm)
2007/2008 Summer Term (35mm)
2013/2014 Spring Term (digital)