Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sweeney Todd and the spiral of violence

Tim Burton's striking and gruesome film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's musical 'Sweeney Todd' made me feel alternately impressed by Johnny Depp's singing talent and wince at the violence. The story of a 19th century barber who avenges the loss of his wife and daughter by providing the closest shave ever to a litany of customers including the judge who caused his pain left me preoccupied by thoughts closer to home.

If the film is trying to make a serious point, it is that Sweeney's spiral of violence never ends. The previous night I had attended a meeting of the Consultative Group on the Past – a body established by the UK Government to examine methods of helping the people of Northern Ireland to address the legacy of our own violent recent history. Two things were clear from the comments made at this meeting by members of the public: first, that the levels of genuine sorrow in this society are unfathomable – families ripped apart, minds taken to the edge of destruction, small communities shattered. This is real, and not interpretation. Second, we often lack the ability to empathise with the pain of the 'other' community. It is all too easy to see 'our' pain as exclusive, and to become blind to the suffering of the community on the other side of a political divide.
Continue reading this post on the God's Politics blog.


SolShine7 said...

Cool blog.

Country Parson said...

Considering the role of violence in culture, religious and otherwise, are you familiar with the work of Rene Gerard by any chance?

Gareth Higgins said...

yes indeed - i think we need to pay serious attention to girard; walter wink was my way into girard - and i'm always glad to hear others who are reading him. congratulations on your impending retirement - may the time afford you the most gracious spaces.

Karen said...

--we often lack the ability to empathise with the pain of the 'other' community--

This is terribly true for so many. The first time I recognized it of myself was in high school, making assumptions about mine being the only life of suffering. Perhaps a trivial enough example, but I think it is representative of the world that most of us live in.

I think it must be giving humanity to the face of the other. I remember telling my mom about recognizing difference in another person, and her commenting on how much that person must have changed. Not really, I told her. I changed by truly seeing her face.