Sweeney Todd Question #1 ~ A Supreme Criminal

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Sweeney Todd Question #1 ~ A Supreme Criminal

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Oct 09, 2006 8:35 am

Good morning, Noodlemantras! Welcome to our discussion at ONBC. Liz and I are always excited to get underway with a new story and we hope you will let us hear from you! Remember, there are no wrong answers and we want to hear your ideas!
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Now Question #1 for our discussion of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street! :bounce:

From the Pitt biography, Tidbit #2:


In notes to the play, Montagu Slater says, “Pitt made the great discovery that there was no need to whitewash the criminal; on the contrary he was better black-washed. The important thing is to make him a supreme criminal, a demon”. Do you agree or disagree?
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Unread postby Betty Sue » Mon Oct 09, 2006 9:02 am

The important thing to me is not to make him a supreme criminal, to black-wash him. To me that's boring, one-dimensional and not very believable. With real or fictional criminals, the first thing I can't help doing is looking for the reasons that motivated the criminal and for redeeming qualities of the criminal. I find that fascinating. Johnny certainly seems to approach his criminals this way! So, I don't agree with Pitt, and that's probably why I enjoyed the Sondheim musical more than Pitt's play.
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Unread postby lumineuse » Mon Oct 09, 2006 9:10 am

I agree with you, Betty Sue. Characters that are one dimensional are boring, whether heroes or villians. And that's certainly something Johnny does not do in portraying a villain. No matter how despicable, he finds a way to make them compelling, if not likeable. It will be interesting to see what he does with Sweeney! Although, having watched the musical, I sure hope Burton makes it a little less musical. I like a little dialogue now and then!
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Unread postby Boo-Radley » Mon Oct 09, 2006 9:19 am

Good morning DITHOTbaba, you never start with an easy question do you? :lol:

On reflection I think that presenting Sweeney the way that Pitt did, is very effective. I'm thinking in terms of the affect you want the play to have on the audience, if the idea is to horrify the audience then yes, I think the villian should not and can not be pitiable. The whole point of horror as an entertainment, imo is to bring us right up the edge of the abyss while we bear silent witness to the monster's deeds, and the pay off comes when the monster is finally revealed and vanquished. So in my mind I imagine that in the time when Pitt's play was performed the audience was kept on the edge of their seats while they watched Sweeney "polish off" his victims one after the other, until he was caught.

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Unread postby lumineuse » Mon Oct 09, 2006 9:24 am

I suppose, in a way, the purity of his evil made it easier to inject humor into the play. If he was morally conflicted, that might have been more difficult to do. The way it is written, he's almost more a caricature of evil than a character.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Oct 09, 2006 9:25 am

Good morning and welcome Betty Sue, lumi and Boobaba! :welcome: Nice to see you all this morning! :bounce: Boo, there will be some easier ones, I promise! :mwahaha:

I don't want to get too far into comparing the two versions, I promise we will definitely be visiting that subject in the future as well as what Johnny and Tim might bring to the story.

I agree that a one dimensional character is never as interesting. Can you be as interested in, or care what happens to, someone as evil as Pitt's Sweeney? Does the character have to possess some redeemable characteristic to make you care what happens to him?
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Oct 09, 2006 9:28 am

lumineuse wrote:I suppose, in a way, the purity of his evil made it easier to inject humor into the play. If he was morally conflicted, that might have been more difficult to do. The way it is written, he's almost more a caricature of evil than a character.


We cross posted, lumi! In Pitt's play, Sweeney is a bit of a caricature, very much in the style of melodrama. Anyone remember Snidely Whiplash? :lol:

Image
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Oct 09, 2006 10:10 am

I agree that Sweeney is a caricature. That is what characters in plays must be. Everything is overdone--like the make-up. I think it must be that way so as to have an impact on the audience--even those in the seats in the back row. And I think Pitt's play was meant to be melodromatic. So I think he should have been as evil as possible.

On the other hand, I prefer characters to be more 3-dimensional. But that is because most of what I see is movies. And I think that is much easier to accomplish in that media.

Good start, Noodlemantras. :thumbsup:
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Unread postby Bix » Mon Oct 09, 2006 11:04 am

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote: We cross posted, lumi! In Pitt's play, Sweeney is a bit of a caricature, very much in the style of melodrama. Anyone remember Snidely Whiplash? :lol:
This is a good point about it being a melodrama, DITHOT. I think in the case of melodrama, the villain does not have to have any redeeming qualities. We care what happens to him because we want him to get his "just desserts"(no food pun intended :blush:), to prove that good will conquer evil. Thus, the more evil he is, the more we root for his downfall.
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Unread postby Endora » Mon Oct 09, 2006 11:07 am

lumineuse wrote:I suppose, in a way, the purity of his evil made it easier to inject humor into the play. If he was morally conflicted, that might have been more difficult to do. The way it is written, he's almost more a caricature of evil than a character.


More like a pantomime character who the audience hiss as he comes on stage really. For this reason I dislike the portrayal, as people have said, too one dimensional. I prefer to be told something more about background, and to be able to deduce motive, some environmental cause of his evil. But, on the other hand, maybe I'm denying the possibility that a man can be wholly evil, that evil can exist within him independant of his environment, by looking for some motive that was created by some incident in his past.

I haven't put this well, but I hope you understand that I am talking about evil being an entity in itself rather than purely a product of the way someone has been treated.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Oct 09, 2006 11:14 am

Endora wrote: I haven't put this well, but I hope you understand that I am talking about evil being an entity in itself rather than purely a product of the way someone has been treated.


What I could call a true sociopath. Someone that has no conscience and truly does not understand the difference between right and wrong.

Bix and Liz, I can definitely see the audience hissing and getting involved with this character. The audience was probably cheering on his downfall!

Bix...no pun intended?
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Unread postby Boo-Radley » Mon Oct 09, 2006 11:26 am

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:
lumineuse wrote:I suppose, in a way, the purity of his evil made it easier to inject humor into the play. If he was morally conflicted, that might have been more difficult to do. The way it is written, he's almost more a caricature of evil than a character.


We cross posted, lumi! In Pitt's play, Sweeney is a bit of a caricature, very much in the style of melodrama. Anyone remember Snidely Whiplash? :lol:

Image


lumibaba, I agree with you that the Sweeney in Pitt's play is a caricature, but as you said DITHOTbaba the play is a melodrama, so I think it works. Sondheim's Sweeney has a backstory so therefore we are asked as an audience to try and understand his motives, but when I watch the play I still see a bit of that melodramatic caricature in all the characters. So I guess what I'm saying is that in the play you can't quite get away from it, it just makes me more curious as to how Tim and Johnny will approach the film.

DITHOTbaba Snidley Whiplash was my favorite villian growing up, thanks. {Yah-ah-ah}

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Unread postby CJS'sWench » Mon Oct 09, 2006 11:31 am

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:
Endora wrote: I haven't put this well, but I hope you understand that I am talking about evil being an entity in itself rather than purely a product of the way someone has been treated.


What I could call a true sociopath. Someone that has no conscience and truly does not understand the difference between right and wrong.





Or not so much not having a conscience or knowing the difference between right and wrong, but in their warped minds seeing their actions as justified because they believe the person "deserves it"


I was only able to read the Sondheim musical book
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Unread postby luvdepp » Mon Oct 09, 2006 11:34 am

I agree with what's been said about the play being a melodrama and therefore, everything is exagerated and over the top. Sweeney is completely evil and one-dimensional and that works for the play. I think Johnny will change the character for the film to make him more interesting and multi-dimensional. Just the kind of challenge that he loves and I'm sure he and Tim will take this story and make it weirdly, wonderfully their own.
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Oct 09, 2006 11:49 am

Luvdepp and Boobaba, I agree that Johnny and Tim will make this story their own unique production. I think it will be unique by virture of the fact that it is a film and not a stage play. We will explore this topic further in a future question.
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