About two weeks ago, I watched Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street for the second time. Unlike the first time, I gave my best attention to the movie, which made it feel like the first time I watched the movie, because I just realized the darkness of the story and the characters. When I was sleeping that night, I got a weird and slightly nightmarish dream. Now I don’t remember what it was about, but I remember the heavy feeling I had the next morning.
Besides the dark theme, I actually got intrigued by the songs, which really add the dramatic impression on the movie. The song I kept singing, even after days later, were “Johanna” and the one I attached in this post, “Not While I’m Around.”
“Johanna” is a creepy song if it’s seen from different perspective (Anthony is a young man who keeps saying “I feel you,” “I’ll steal you,” “I’m at your window,” “I am in the dark beside you,” and “Buried sweetly in your yellow hair,” despite only seeing Johanna from outside her window once or twice). However, the cleverly dramatic lyrics and the hypnotizing voice of Jamie Campbell Bower make it easy for the song to get stuck in my head, and after I read that particular comment on YouTube, when I was about to eat a banana one day, I couldn’t help but singing, “I’ll peel you, banana…” 😆
Meanwhile, for me, “Not While I’m Around” exposes a deeper feeling than that of Anthony and Johanna. Mrs. Lovett may not be a lovable character in the story, but she is a mother figure for Toby, the boy who ends up helping her in the restaurant, who is an orphan. In the end, Mrs. Lovett indeed prioritizes Todd over Toby, but the reluctance in her eyes when she shuts the door of her baking room clearly shows that she is fond of the boy. For Toby, Mrs. Lovett is the only one he can trust. The way Mrs. Lovett treats him, which is full of love in his eyes, is the reason of his loyalty. That is why, when his suspicion toward Todd grows bigger, he confides to Mrs. Lovett, and even promises to protect the lady. Although Toby is not especially a naive boy, his love is still an innocent one, without any greed, and the irony in the story is that his pure kind of love is the one leading him to the end of his innocence.
Now, regardless of the story in the movie, the song itself evokes strong emotion. It shows one’s awareness of dangers surrounding the one they love and how they will protect them, while not being oblivious of their own weaknesses. I can say that in my opinion, among all the sorrowful and desperate songs in the movie, “Not While I’m Around” is the tenderest, the one giving a kind of balance in the story, and yet the most ironic one.