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.