One of the more subtle themes woven into the fabric of “Sweeney Todd” is that of dual personality. While many of the characters possess this trait, the strongest examples of dual personality may be found in the characters of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett. In the beginning, Johnny Depp’s character was Benjamin Barker, a humble barber whose love for his wife and child was his sole source of joy. When his family is stolen from him and he learns of their tragic fate, the part of Benjamin Barker that was good is extinguished and he becomes Sweeney Todd, a man whose despair is transformed into an insatiable lust for revenge that ultimately destroys him.
Mrs. Lovett is a character whose soul reflects both light and darkness. While she expresses an air of maternal concern for both Toby and Todd’s daughter, Johanna, her gentle nature is also extended to Sweeney Todd, himself. Although he is shrouded in a dark cloud of bitterness and pain, she can see the good in him; the beautiful person that he once was. Her love for Todd compels her to keep his wife’s true fate a secret. She also dreams of them having a relationship with him that is steeped in love rather than revenge. The darker side of Mrs. Lovett’s psyche is revealed when her devotion to the sinister barber of Fleet Street drives her to aid Todd in his quest for revenge by proposing that she use his slain customers as meat in her pies.
Death is a powerful theme which is portrayed both literally and symbolically throughout the film. When he fails to carry out his revenge on Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) the fragile essence of Todd’s humanity is shattered and his desire for revenge is transformed into a malignant addiction which compels him to become a murderer. The irony of Sweeny Todd is that the catalyst which inspired these two characters to kill is also what ultimately destroyed them. In the end, Sweeney Todd was slain by his own razor and Mrs. Lovett was sent to a fiery demise in her pie oven.
“Sweeney Todd” is a dark story of love and betrayal that is ultimately steeped in revenge. Johnny Depp shines in the role of the demon barber, Sweeney Todd, a character whose actions were driven by rage and pain, but whose heart was fragile. He wasn’t truly a monster, but a man who sought to free himself of the guilt that he had carried for so long after losing his family. There is a seductive and almost vulnerable undertone in both Todd and Mrs. Lovett that allows the audience to connect with them more intimately than just characters in a film. The intricate marriage of emotion, exceptional casting, extraordinary music, and a well-told story makes “Sweeney Todd” a truly remarkable film. I would highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys Tim Burton at his best.