When ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’ hit theaters last fall, I intentionally stayed home. With the real-life horrors of war transpiring half a world away, and the specter of assault looming large some fifteen years after having my jaw broken in a random attack, I chose to vote with my wallet against further the cultural glorification of gratuitous violence. And so it was with some puzzlement that I found myself in line last night to purchase the ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’ DVD in anticipation of the theatrical release of ‘Vol. 2.’
Why, in six short months, did I reverse my position? What makes this film so compelling? Why was I on the edge of my seat (futon), cheering for mass, bloody murder?
In a word? Vengeance.
Webster’s defines vengeance thusly: “Infliction of punishment in return for a wrong committed; retribution.”
I was thinking all of this over on my walk to work. Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ was playing on my iPod.
I was thinking of Columbine. We’ve been wrestling with the angle of our coverage, and seem to be resolving to allow one victim’s voice — Richard Castaldo’s — speak for the tragedy. Is Richard angry? Vengeful? And towards whom?
And I was thinking about my friend Wayne in St. Petersburg whose father recently died. “He’s given up,” he said to me a few weeks ago. Is Wayne angry? Vengeful? And towards whom?
And I was thinking about the war with Iraq. Sure seems like George W. is vengeful, but towards whom? Why? And to what end?
I don’t consider myself vengeful. The only event for which I would wish revenge, or retribution, would be the aforementioned assault but I’ve long since moved that anger into the forgiveness file.
Still, one of my favorite film moments comes in ‘The Princess Bride’ when Inigo Montoya faces his nemesis, Count Tyrone Rugen. “Hello,” he says. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father: prepare to die.” We all love this moment, these moments, when the bad guys finally get theirs.
But why? And what is the alternative?
Is forgiveness the opposite of vengeance? Google didn’t know. Webster didn’t know. I’m not sure. Is love the answer? And how do we find that place? Seems like it takes an awful lot more courage that vengeance. And it’s a much less of a dramatic story arc. But it seems like a much happier ending.