Sweeney Todd: An Evil Genius

Sweeney Todd“There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit and the vermin of the world inhabit it; and its morals aren’t worth what a pig could spit, and it goes by the name of London…”

Sweeny Todd, in hues of blue with rivulets of red, is the sixth collaboration between Director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp. This film can be perceived as a stylish musical with sprinkles of horror, or a depressingly romantic one with a few gasps of wit. Sweeny Todd (Johnny Depp), a man possessed with vengeance and malice, seeks the blood of his adversary and desires to send him to the fires of hell.

Sweeny Todd returns to London after spending the prime of his life in prison, falsely accused by Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman). Judge Turpin, like many men, falls prey to the charms of the fairer sex; Turpin is in love with Sweeny Todd aka Benjamin Barker’s wife Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly) and uses his position and power to send the doting father and devoted husband to prison.

The husband is back and discovers an ally in Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), the worst baker in London, who tells him the tragedy that befell his family when he was gone. Turpin had lured Lucy out of her solitude and ravaged her at a party when she was drunk. Unable to live with the shame, she poisoned herself leaving her daughter orphaned. Turpin takes Lucy’s daughter under his care and christens her Johanna. He subsequently keeps her locked in a room, driving away any suitors who hope of winning her hand in marriage.

Todd, livid with anger, decides to slay Turpin and declares Turpin an abomination to mankind. The journey to Turnip’s neck is not as simple as one may assume. Looking to establish himself as a barber of great skill, Todd challenges a local barber- Dave Perrili (Sacha Baron Cohen in a hilarious cameo) to a “shave off”. Todd wins comprehensively, and, his unique unassuming style does not go unnoticed as Turnip’s assistant (Timothy Spall), is impressed and suggests a shave later in the week.

A sub-plot meanwhile is shaping up, where two young lovers (Jayne Wisener and Jamie Campbell Bower) in a world of hate and anger desire to live together. A place where love has no chance to win and it seems like a cruel practical joke played by fate.

Perrili visits Todd in his private salon and identifies Todd as Barker. Under threat of blackmail Todd slits Pirelli’s throat and decides to dump the body in the dead of the night. Mrs. Lovett, though, has other plans. In her unique, hilarious but horrific way she convinces Todd to form an unholy alliance. The barbaric Mrs. Lovett would use the “meat” for her pies while Todd could practice his skills on unsuspecting victims, and together, they could ensnare the judge.

The shower of ruby red blood as Depp slits one throat after another and throws them down through a contraption which can be conceived only by the most heinous minds into a baking room, splattering their brains on the hard cold stone floor below is nauseating at times. The most remarkable scene has to be the duet between the murderous duo of Lovett and Todd as they stalk their prey like predators in the wild, conjuring up ways and methods to bake them.

This movie has shades of blood fests like Saw, albeit classier, as well as glimpses of musicals like Chicago and Moulin Rouge. I have personally never been a fan of “blood showers” and gruesome killings but this film has an undeniable charm, convincing a viewer who despises horror to devour the film with enthusiasm paralleling Todd’s fascination with blood.

Tim Burton has had a nasty habit of twisting the sweetest fantasies into scary nightmares. He had previously united Depp and Carter (in voice if not in a film strip) in the Corpse Bride– a depressingly funny film. This time Burton again dwells into the dark recess of the human psyche jelling light and darkness, showing the movie in shades of blue and red when in the dark dreary parts and bright, heart warming colors in the occasional light hearted journey.

Helena Bonham Carter as the female version of Lector Hannibal of the Victorian era is adorable. She has portrayed her character with pathos and wit. Alan Rickman as the scheming Judge is entertaining. Before entering into the film industry, Johnny Depp was part of a rock band, which was about to taste success. Depp has called upon all his singing talents for this endeavor with occasional growls and touches high notes with ease.

The film has a memorable soundtrack, thanks to the efforts of Stephen Soddenheim. Not meant for the faint hearted, the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical is nothing short of entertaining.

Patanjali Pahwa

(image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/georgmayer/194120610/)