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Sweeney Todd (2007)


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But is it their job to constantly portray Christians negatively?

No, it isn't. But it is their job to make films the way they see fit, which sadly involves portraying Christians in a negative light. Maybe we'll see a decrease in this when a large number of Christians stop acting like this.

Am I saying we compromise our beliefs to cater to Hollywood? Absolutely not. But in a way, I can honestly see WHY some filmmakers might think that's how Christians behave.

But hey! That's not the point of this thread.

(Sorry for the tangent! :) )

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I'm not sure which thread this comment belongs in, but for me, the fact that a film portrays a Christian negatively doesn't automatically make it an "anti-Christian" film. I don't like to see Christians portrayed in a bad light, but that isn't the only consideration. In the case of Sweeney Todd, we see all too clearly what can happen when men reject God and try to impose their own moral order on the world. So thematically, while it's not exactly pro-Christian, it clearly isn't anti-Christian. A Christian should have no problem making the same argument the film makes, and won't even need a swimming pool full of fake blood in order to do it.

Furthermore, I'll go out on a limb a bit and suggest that even in its character portrayals, the film actually skews slightly less anti-Christian than the play, because it downplays the judge's religiosity and leaves out choral lyrics like "Freely flows the blood of those who moralize."

Edited by mrmando

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Very well said, Mando.

Say, what did you think about the "street woman" who bellows and speaks, IIRC, of damnation and such, alluding to the smells coming out of the bakery (I think). There's a development with this character late in the film that I didn't see coming, and my impression at the time was that Burton was in some way vindicating this character, rather than portraying her as another "religious nut," which she seemed to be until that point.

This is getting into spoiler territory -- hope I haven't said too much -- but I'd be curious to hear your thoughts, especially if the movie departs from the play in this matter.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Say, what did you think about the "street woman" who bellows and speaks, IIRC, of damnation and such, alluding to the smells coming out of the bakery (I think). There's a development with this character late in the film that I didn't see coming, and my impression at the time was that Burton was in some way vindicating this character, rather than portraying her as another "religious nut," which she seemed to be until that point.

This is getting into spoiler territory -- hope I haven't said too much -- but I'd be curious to hear your thoughts, especially if the movie departs from the play in this matter.

Well, I've seen the play, so I knew who she was ... she compares the bakehouse to hell and she's pretty much dead-on in that assessment. Yeah, she's vindicated big time--

too bad she doesn't live to tell about it.

What we don't see in the film is her split-personality behavior. In the play she's begging Anthony for alms in one breath, and offering him a roll in the hay with the next. In the film we see her as mendicant but not meretricious. So she actually seems less crazy and more reliable in the film than she does on stage.

Edited by mrmando

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:spoilers:

Her repulsiveness isn't just a disguise to keep Sweeney from recognizing her face and form: It's a disguise to keep Sweeney from recognizing his own humanity.

In the film, Sweeney gets very little face time with her

before killing her

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Christian wrote:

: There's a development with this character late in the film that I didn't see coming . . .

Really? I was completely unfamiliar with this story before I saw the film, but I thought it was VERY obvious from the begger lady's first appearance who she really was (the way she was

lingering outside her daughter's window and telling people her daughter's story

, the way we never saw her face, etc. -- if you're hiding someone's face, it's because you intend to "reveal" it later on).

I actually remember thinking that this part of the story might have worked better on stage, where actors play multiple characters and/or where you don't expect to get "close-ups" of people's faces anyway. (And come to think of it, the stage version might not have had

dramatized flashbacks

, either -- without those, you eliminate the need to hide anyone's face.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I actually remember thinking that this part of the story might have worked better on stage, where actors play multiple characters and/or where you don't expect to get "close-ups" of people's faces anyway. (And come to think of it, the stage version might not have had

dramatized flashbacks

, either -- without those, you eliminate the need to hide anyone's face.)

The stage version does in fact include a

dramatized flashback

during the song "Poor Thing," but yeah, it's easier to pull these things off without closeups.

In general, though, I think the film does a very good job of cinematizing the play -- finding interesting ways to illuminate the story that aren't practical on stage. In my earlier comment about the singing, I should have noted that most tempi are significantly slower than what one might hear on stage, and while sometimes it seems this is because Bonham-Carter can't sing any faster, sometimes it helps to highlight particular lyrics that might get lost in a stage production.

This is easily the best Tim Burton film since Ed Wood, and maybe the best Tim Burton film, period. You'll see from my earlier comments in this thread that I was quite skeptical, but on the whole I found myself pleasantly surprised. It's not perfect -- I cringed at both the graphic violence and HBC's singing -- but it's darn good.

Edited by mrmando

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This is easily the best Tim Burton film since Ed Wood, and maybe the best Tim Burton film, period. You'll see from my earlier comments in this thread that I was quite skeptical, but on the whole I found myself pleasantly surprised. It's not perfect -- I cringed at both the graphic violence and HBC's singing -- but it's darn good.

I agree.

Peter: This wouldn't be the first time I missed something obvious in a movie. :) However, it's clear that TODD is surprised at the revelation, and I think we're supposed to share in that to some degree. When Mrs. Lovett tells Todd

she never told him his wife was

dead

, I thought, "Ah hah! She's right!" I figured the audience was supposed to share Todd's surprise and find Mrs. Lovett's explanation clever, if selfish.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Christian wrote:

: However, it's clear that TODD is surprised at the revelation . . .

Oh, definitely. But then, he doesn't realize he's living inside a movie. :)

: . . . and I think we're supposed to share in that to some degree.

I agree, but the way Burton staged it, it still seemed kind of obvious to me. (And I WAS surprised at the WAY it was "revealed" in the end. Wow.) (By that, I mean I was surprised that

she was killed, and that she showed her face at the precise moment of her execution

. Though I guess it isn't "revealed" to Todd himself until even later.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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: vengeful god/God?

I'll ask my brother who has a reliable version of the libretto (or all the music or something) and has certainly sung it enough times to know.

: Even You Mrs Lovett, even I

Definitely in the original - I've heard this many times I'm sure.

: Part of the reason the street beggar works on stage is that, like

: most people, audience members are inclined to ignore beggars;

Hmm, fantastic observation

Matt

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My dear wife's take on the film is that the hyperrealistic visual style and Grand Guignol violence (the blood ain't even the right color) are Brechtian devices to give the audience some distance from what's going on. The exaggeration is what keeps it from being torture-porn. This Brechtian device helps compensate, she says, for the absence of the Brechtian chorus.

Or something like that. Maybe I can get her to post.

"Out-of-control" isn't a term I would use, except for the amount of blood. The film was actually a good deal more restrained than I expected.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

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Hmm. To my mind,

Toby pushing Sweeney in the oven right after Sweeney pushes Mrs. Lovett would be awkwardly repetitive, or worse, comic, in the film. The changed ending with Toby slitting Sweeney's throat was an example of the old "Live by the sword die by the sword" device, and also showed that this isn't the end of the horrible depravity afoot in London; Toby becomes a "little Sweeney" himself in killing Sweeney like that.

My name is Darth Vader. I come from the planet Vulcan.

- Back to the Future

To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some other things I can't remember; all rolled into one big "thing." This is truth, to me.

- Jack Handey

The Moviegeist

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My dear wife's take on the film is that the hyperrealistic visual style and Grand Guignol violence (the blood ain't even the right color) are Brechtian devices to give the audience some distance from what's going on. The exaggeration is what keeps it from being torture-porn. This Brechtian device helps compensate, she says, for the absence of the Brechtian chorus.

Or something like that. Maybe I can get her to post.

It just sounds like a good old fashioned splatter movie to me (a la "The Evil Dead" and "Friday the 13th") - though it is true that in John McCarty's famous genre-defining book "Splatter Movies: Breaking the Last Taboo of the Screen", he does trace the roots of splatter back to Grand Guignol theatre.

I will have to check to see if there are any other splatter musicals out there. Brian DePalma made "Phantom of the Paradise", but I think that one is gore-free, so it doesn't qualify. "Big Meat Eater" is a possibility (I haven't seen it for twenty years, so I'm a little foggy as to the blood content).

Edited by The Invisible Man

We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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I will have to check to see if there are any other splatter musicals out there. Brian DePalma made "Phantom of the Paradise", but I think that one is gore-free, so it doesn't qualify. "Big Meat Eater" is a possibility (I haven't seen it for twenty years, so I'm a little foggy as to the blood content).

There's blood on the poster!

Big Meat Eater

We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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:spoilers:

In both the play and the film Sweeney goes to the cellar upon hearing Mrs. Lovett screaming, and he's carrying the razor he has just used to dispatch the judge (and might have used to kill Johanna if he hadn't heard the screaming). In the stage production we see him putting the razor down to help move Lucy's body. I don't remember whether Burton repeats this or has him drop it upon recognizing the body. Either way, he doesn't have it in hand to kill Mrs. Lovett, which is why he uses the oven as a weapon instead. Sure, he could break away from her embrace and grab the razor, but then her guard's up. You've got to admit it's more poetic to sing "The history of the world, my pet/Is learn forgiveness and try to forget" and then waltz her into the oven than merely to slash her throat.

In the play, Toby is clearly out of his mind; his innocence is preserved. In the film he's much more deliberate: the act of killing Sweeney is the loss of what's left of his innocence.

Speaking of innocence and the loss thereof, and of Anthony's Christian-ness: in the play he threatens to shoot Fogg, but is too humane to pull the trigger; Fogg calls his bluff and backs him down. It's Johanna who grabs the pistol and shoots Fogg. So her innocence is gone. In the film Anthony freezes Fogg with the gun and leaves him to the mercy of his inmates.

Edited by mrmando

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Splatter movies aren't about anything but the blood if you ask me. What sets Bond's/Sondheim's Sweeney Todd apart, even from other treatments of Sweeney Todd, is that it's about something else. The blood is only a metaphor. I still think Burton understood this, even if at times he seemed less than clear on what the metaphor was about, or forgot that less can be more.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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I will have to check to see if there are any other splatter musicals out there.

Don't forget, Steven King's Carrie was adapted for Broadway! It was one of the biggest flops in history, but it did exist.

But was it gory? There have been a lot of horror musicals over the years (e.g. Phantom of the Paradise, The Rocky Horror Show, Little Shop of Horrors), but most of them aren't interested in splatter. As I mentioned earlier, "Big Meat Eater" might be a contender.

Splatter movies aren't about anything but the blood if you ask me. What sets Bond's/Sondheim's Sweeney Todd apart, even from other treatments of Sweeney Todd, is that it's about something else. The blood is only a metaphor. I still think Burton understood this, even if at times he seemed less than clear on what the metaphor was about, or forgot that less can be more.

Actually, there are an awful lot of thematically deep splatter movies out there, and so, in this regard, Burton isn't offering anything particularly new. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead", for example, says some interesting things about consumerism; Cronenberg's "Videodrome" has something serious to say about postmodernism, "The Brood" addresses child abuse, while his "Shivers" anticipated AIDS by a number of years (also, modern fears of cancer are a subtext of his early movies); Wes Craven's "The Hills have Eyes" and his "Last House on the Left" are scathing criticisms of the nuclear family (Last House actually borrows its plot from Bergman's "The Virgin Spring"); and, for those who can take it, John McNaughton's "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" is an astonishingly complex piece of work about a difficult subject; etc.

We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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I got to see Sweeney last night (a special preview screening I think). It was better than I was expecting actually. Having heard that the Ballad of Sweeney Todd had been chopped, I was pleasantly surprised that the music was still there, there just weren

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MattPage wrote:

: By the way did anyone think the shot of Lovett in the furnace was reminiscent of the death of her character in Frankenstein (another Vistorian era tragedy?

YES!

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Terry Teachout:

Whether or not it succeeds commercially, and despite certain flaws, it is easily the most innovative movie of its kind to be made since Bob Fosse

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Read the linked review. You'll see that Teachout singles out the singing as a weak point, but still deeply admires the film.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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