“SWEENEY TODD”– (not the musical)–the demon barber

“Sweeney Todd”

The Demon Barber

Amos Lassen

The British know how to make movies and even though “Sweeney Todd” will not appeal to everyone, it is an example of the sublime art of making a wonderful movie. The acting s brilliant, the plot is engaging and everything just works beautifully. Ray Winstone as Sweeney Todd gives an outstanding performance. His character is one of contradictions but his actions show that we are all capable of both acts of kindness as well as evil, depending upon the circumstances.

“Sweeney Todd” is macabre drama about a character known as “The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”. Whether he ever lived is legend or urban myth—no one really knows. As Todd descended from man to monster, he did so sympathetically. In fact, I would even go so far to say as the audience identified with him. Once the killings began and Todd found a novel way to dispose of his victims, he was not yet completely evil. Granted, he ended the lives of many but he had a kind side as well. Mrs. Lovett, his accomplice in crime, was so mystified by the man that she ever questioned why her many lovers never came back to her.

What was missing from the movie was the fairytale quality of the story—it was just too real with very real characters. Some find it disturbing that our feelings turn to Sweeney rather than against him. But the story ropes you as is so characteristic of Victorian literature.

The London of the 18th century is a rotten and decaying city that has a terrible secret—Sweeney Todd. Sweeney is supposedly the best barber in London and people come and go and praise him. One day when a childhood memory triggers a reaction, he slits the throat of a client and dumps the body in the river. He continues living life as if nothing has happened but this soon becomes a pattern. A Mrs. Lovett catches his eye and they enter into a relationship and he helps her start a bakery near his barber shop. Todd, also, supplies her with meat but she does not know that it s the flesh of his ex-customers.

Whether or not this is true matters not. It’s a great story, gruesome as it is. Bloody,yes but it is a beautiful production nevertheless.

Todd’s customers did get the closest shaves ever. Todd was the master of his craft which he learned in prison while serving 29 years for a murder committed by his father. Perhaps he should have learned a different trade instead.

Thoroughly enjoyable, “Sweeney Todd” could possibly join the ranks of other classic British films. The only thing that my hold it back is its gore.


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