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Free Content Sweeney Todd: Hypertexuality, intermediality and adaptation

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Tim Burton’s 2007 film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 musical thriller Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street represents the most recent of a long line of adaptations of the source material. When writing his version, Sondheim constructed the score to function like a horror film and imbued it with other cinematic features. Through the process of hypertexuality, new adaptations (hypertexts) can productively be analysed in relation to their source material (hypotexts), without getting mired in issues of fidelity. Intermediality considers the relationship between two (or more) art-forms, and the interplay that exists between them in a specific text. In this article, I consider the hypertextual relationship between Sondheim’s score (hypotext) and Burton’s film (hypertext) by exploring intermedial aspects of each text. While Burton advanced some of the cinematic attributes of Sondheim’s score, he retained other theatrical conceits that allude to stage aesthetics and are also referents to other mediated genres. In examining these aspects, I consider implications of stage to screen adaptations of musicals.
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Keywords: Stephen Sondheim; Tim Burton; film adaptation; film musicals; hypertextuality; intermediality; musical theatre

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Florida International University

Publication date: March 1, 2014

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  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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