Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is the story (based off the hit Broadway musical) of Benjamin Barker’s plot for revenge against those who had ruined his life. Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) was once a happy, simple Barber shop supply, who was married and had a child. When Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) gains interest in Barker’s wife, he trumps up a charge to have Barker deported, rapes his wife, and takes their daughter in as his own ward.
Years later, Barker returns to London in search of revenge. The years have changed his appearance and he now calls himself Sweeney Todd. When he arrives in London, he goes to see Mrs. Lovett, a long time friend. Mrs. Lovett sets him up with a work-space above her own shop and together they plot to bring Barker’s daughter Johanna back to him and take revenge on Judge Turpin. He shows off to a crowd of onlookers and attracts the attention of the town Beadle who is intrigued by his shaving skills.
Problems arise when an old apprentice of Todd’s recognizes him for who he truly is, the Judge finds out that Todd is harboring the sailor who wants Johanna for himself, and the neighbors begin complaining about the smell coming from Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd’s stores. Sweeney Todd must find a way to work through these interruptions and accomplish his goal.
Although “Sweeney Todd” starts out rather slow, and if you are not listening closely to the lyrics of the first few songs, you may get a little lose, the movie picks up quickly and makes for a tremendous viewing experience. It is really never clear exactly why Todd returned to London, whether it was to get Johanna back or to get revenge on Judge Turpin, but it is this play with what is most important that keeps the viewer wanting to see how the movie will play out. Although when Todd first returns to London he expresses his desire to let Johanna free, when Judge Turpin gets away the first time, Todd can think of nothing but gaining another meeting with Turpin, not what might happen to Johanna in the meantime.
This fine line in motives gets twisted as the movie progresses, and there are moments where the viewer begins to question Todd’s own sanity. When this first happened, I was worried that it would tarnish the inner conflict we were already being presented with. However, I was quite surprised by how this “insanity” comes to play out. The fine line between Johanna and revenge, and sanity and insanity lead the way to the actions taken in the end of the movie, and justifies the conclusion to the movie.
Another place where “Sweeney Todd” hits its mark is with the imagery from the props in the scenes. For example, Todd’s new “barber shop” is an empty room with a broken mirror that he keeps starring into and a run-down barbers chair. These two items and the fact that Todd keeps starring into the mirror helps to portray just how unsure Todd is about his own identity. He is no longer Benjamin Barker, but he’s not sure if he can be Sweeney Todd either.