Director Burton pulls off the film with finesse and dark beauty. It’s his best work in years, but it’s nearly relentless in the darkness of its interior and exterior shots, befitting the tone of Sondheim’s mournful songs. Unfortunately, the torrents of blood make Sweeney Todd disgusting in several spots, so much so that the film cannot be recommended, despite outstanding production design (by Dante Ferretti), striking cinematography by Darius Wolski, and Burton’s deft direction.

Moreover, the tagline for this film adaptation of Sweeney Todd is “Never Forget, Never Forgive.” Obviously, the film does not support biblical ideas of vengeance or forgiveness. Yet its depiction of the darkness of the human heart is not out of keeping with the Bible’s depiction of man’s state apart from God. “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 pin can spit,” Todd sings. And although his anger is directed at the Londoners who wronged him, he speaks a broader truth about the fallen world. The Apostle Paul describes a world where the godless and wicked are “without excuse,” and whose “foolish hearts are darkened” (Romans 1:18, 20-21). “He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice” (Romans 1:28-29).

Many of the Londoners of Sweeney Todd fit this description, but the story’s strength is in recognizing that Todd himself has been given over to the same traits, and his life will demonstrate the truth of Christ:  “Those who use the sword will be killed by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@earthlink.net.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  Some profanity; crude term for bodily fluid.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Young boy drinks, and asks a woman to leave a liquor bottle with him, later, he’s shown passed out; Todd also drinks.
  • Sex/Nudity:  None; some cleavage is shown.
  • Violence:  Images of blood appear in the opening credits; a man is beaten and detained; a woman is said to have poisoned herself; a dead baby is shown; a man calls a knife his “faithful friend”; a young boy is beaten; a boy’s hand is cut by a razor; man is beaten to death and stuffed into a trunk; several throats are slit, and the bodies dropped on their heads; bodies are ground up and turned into food; a group of women attack a harsh caretaker; a person is incinerated.