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5.25.04 Beheadings

I have a confession. I watched the Nick Berg video. I wasn't going to. The whole thing was too grotesque and I felt like I'd be diminished by it somehow.  Isn't it better, in my village, to concentrate on the sunshine at the center, rather than the evil darkness at the edges?

Saturday night we watched "Kill Bill, Vol. 1." There are plenty of beheadings in that film. The avenging Uma Thurman takes her beautiful Japanese samurai sword and -- whoosh! -- sweeps it through someone's neck like a guillotine. The head goes flying and blood sprays like a fountain in front of a Las Vegas hotel.

Intellectually, I know that "Kill Bill" is a cartoon full of invisibly rendered special effects. But weren't there real samurai with powerful arms and swift sharp swords? Maybe they couldn't actually decapitate someone from atop a horse, but this, I realized, was my mental image of a beheading: a movie samurai.

Reality was grimmer.

Without looking for it, I stumbled upon a site that had the video. I decided to look evil in the eye.

There may have been angry righteousness on the part of the al-Qaeda murderers, but there was no nobility. It was deer-hunting gone wrong. Men falling on an animal that is not dead but resisting death. Hacking and sawing. Butchery without compassion or respect. Brutes.

That was last week and the image is still with me. It is good, I think, to be clear that stylized Hollywood violence still can't hold a candle to the real thing.

"To be an artist is never to avert your eyes."
Kurosawa, Japanese filmmaker ("The Seven Samurai").



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