Dark, yes. Thoughtless? No.


So every once in awhile there is a movie that causes a difference of opinion here at Rogue. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street would be one of them. Bernerd has already stated that the lack of redemption in this movie was his biggest turn off. In no way was it a slam against the quality of the movie or it's creator's, more of a question of content. I agree that Tim Burton is my favorite director because of his redemptive qualities. There is always a moral, a message, something to give you hope. It's the kind of hope that actually makes you believe in something, not the cheesy hope you get from watching a Sandra Bullock flick. It's a hope that lasts for more than 10 minutes, one that puts a smile on your face because you know that at the end of the day all is not lost, there are still people out there who care, who feel, who love.

While Sweeney Todd did not have this glimmering hope, this light in the darkness, I think that it would be foolish to toss it aside as mindless. (NOTE: Many people claim this of Burton and his work, this, however, is not the case in regards to Bernerd. End Note.) While the musical is uncommonly dark and is definitely an exaggeration of general human behavior we must not forget that the bad guy does not prevail.


You see, many who watch Sweeney Todd will feel a heightened sense of justice for him and will find his obsession merited. Again, I will reiterate that Burton's story line is quite extreme, but nonetheless, when broken down it becomes clear that people will like Todd because they will identify with him.

We are human, we are sinful, there is no getting around it. All, at some point or another, have felt revenge. All have felt that it is their duty to bring wrongdoers to justice, not realizing in our fury that taking revenge is a sinful act in itself.

This is where the message or the moral comes in, and yes, in my opinion this movie really does have a moral. To outline it very simply Benjamin Barker is a Barber who has a beautiful wife and a lovely daughter. Judge Turpin, a judge in London, is an evil man who wants Barker's wife as his own. So he unjustly throws Barker in prison thus ensuring that his wife would have no one to care for her. Fifteen years later we meet up with Barker who is now called Sweeney Todd. He is angry, he has been paying a debt that he never should have had to pay in the first place while this dirty judge took everything that held meaning to him. Todd feels like it is his right, his privilege to take judge Turpin's life. After all those years, after all of his work, the man who took his life away would get what was coming to him.

However, fate should never lie in the hand's of a mortal. Death should not be determined looking through a man's eyes. It becomes an obsession. His lust for blood takes over him and he becomes so enthralled in what he is doing. He starts killing others, people that he had never set out to kill in the first place, however, I do not think this is random. I honestly think that Burton is trying to show a progression of insanity here; how once focused on something so intently, it becomes who you are. Sweeney Todd was in prison for 15 years, that's 15 years of mulling over the same injustice over and over again.

He eventually kills Judge Turpin in a short-lived moment of glory, for within the next couple of minutes he also kills his wife whom he thought had been dead for years. In his obsession, in his insanity, he ended up killing the one thing that he had wanted to protect all along. You see, the murder wasn't what he was doing anymore, it was who he had become...a murderer. It seems that his wife's cold dead body brings him back to reality, but only for a short moment, as Todd himself his killed at the hand of a child, by his own blade.

This movie is in no way redemptive, in fact it is actually quite hopeless. However, I can honestly say that I enjoyed this movie for what it was, a depiction of the sinfulness of human nature. If I had to sum up Burton's message in one sentence it would be that Sweeney Todd is about a man seeking the ultimate revenge, but as he travels further down this path of hatred and destruction he travels further into the darkness, not only ultimately costing him his own life, but the life of the one he cared for most.

Let us not forget that while hope is a wonderful belief that no one should ever lose sight of, this world is not perfect. Evil does exist and while depicted very darkly in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the good does win out in the end.



Anonymous said...

"The good?"

I thought the whole point of the movie was that there was no such thing as "good."

Win what? Over what?

Fran said...

In regards to Todds life, no there is no good, there is no redemption for him, as I already stated. However, what I was referring to was in the grand scheme of things, the general battle of good vs. evil, Burton does not glorify evil through a triumph of Sweeney Todd. Todd dies with his obsession.

Depicting evil does not mean that good does not exist. The very fact that Burton threw his character to the mercy of his own actions shows that.