One Reason Clip of London Attacker Is So Jarring

It's the woman with a shopping cart walking by, writes Anthony Lane

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted May 23, 2013 1:58 PM CDT

(Newser) – It almost looks like something out of a movie, but the video from London yesterday in which a man holding a cleaver with bloodied hands explains why he and an accomplice just butchered a man is unfortunately not. (You can see it in this story.) "There is a particular horror associated with low-grade or homemade violence of this kind," writes Anthony Lane in the New Yorker, but that's not the part of the video that resonates the most with him. It's when a woman with a shopping cart approaches from behind as the man is speaking and walks on by.

"She either does not notice what is happening, or prefers not to, or pretends not to, and who can blame her?" writes Lane. We're all familiar with the notion that the world spins on even as tragedy unfolds, but we usually think of that happening far away from the suffering. Violence like this changes the calculus. "What if life itself becomes an intrinsic part of the scene; what if someone else walks dully along, a foot or two away, just as death is lying there," he asks, referencing an Auden poem. "That is utterly disorientating, in its clamping together of barbarism and urban normality, of cloudy British weather and startlingly bright blood; and it may begin to account for the effect—bewilderment, shaken together with disgust and disbelief—that this footage is liable to have on those who see it." Click for his full column.

A clip from the video shows a woman with a shopping cart walking into the frame.
A clip from the video shows a woman with a shopping cart walking into the frame.   (YouTube)
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