We All Deserve to Die

Sweeney ToddAll through the night, I had this going through my head, “We all deserve to die. Even you, Mrs. Lovett; even I.” If you don’t recognize it, it is the song “Epiphany” from Sweeney Todd. I watched the film for the first time a couple of days ago. It is a fine film: your typical “boy who kills people meets girl who uses the bodies to make pies” story. No, honestly, it is a beautiful and engaging film that is very much worth watching if you haven’t already.

But the fact that the song showed up in my dreams is important. It means one thing: Andrew Lloyd Webber did not write the music. Well, that’s going too far. Webber sometimes manages to put a single catchy tune in one of his plays. But the songs in Sweeney Todd were written by Stephen Sondheim and so there are quite a number of winners. But tuneful doesn’t mean sweet. We ain’t talking Sound of Music here:

The film is relentlessly dark. Johnny Depp spends the whole time scowling. Helena Bonham Carter gets the choice role as Nellie Lovett, purveyor of the “worst pies in London”:

She’s the ultimate woman: one who supports your interests, even if they involve the slitting of strangers’ throats.

The wonderful thing about Sweeney Todd is that it is so over-the-top that it is funny despite its subject matter. This is in contrast to Richard III and Othello that we are supposed to take as seriously, even though they are pretty much the same thing. But mostly, the whole thing is just an excuse for a lot of great songs. Sondheim has always been especially good at writing lyrics for unusual subjects. That dates back at least to West Side Story. As for the rest of the film, it is rather typical of Tim Burton. Everything is done straight but without forgetting how silly it all is.

Last night I made two meat pies. I wonder if the film inspired me. Probably not. There was just this transient who died near the house and he was starting to go bad…

3 thoughts on “We All Deserve to Die

  1. I’ve actually always liked Sondheim’s lighter songs best; "Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir" is my favorite from "Todd." But that’s just my temperament. I like my films and books dark; I like my musicals fun and catchy. Gimme "Little Shop Of Horrors" or "Hedwig And The Angry Inch" any day. Or this timeless classic of Western civilization:


    I like "Worst Pies In London" also, but the refrain sounds to me like "tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow" from "Annie." Which came out two years before Todd. Some ear worms are so noxiously potent they wiggle their way into the best composers’ subconsciousness, apparently . . .

  2. @JMF – Nice catch with "Tomorrow"–it does have a similar melody. But "Pies" is much less plodding. Also, the lyrics are clever whereas "Tomorrow" is, well, just kind of stupid.

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