A History of Violence David Cronenberg

There is a thesis dissertation's worth of material contained in David Cronenberg's masterpiece A History of Violence. Hell, there's an entire chapter to be made from the indefinite article in the title alone: a history, not the history. The appendix will certainly include quite a discussion about Cronenberg's DVD for the film as well, including a "making of" that breaks its themes into "acts of violence," including "Lies" and "Hope." It's enough to make you go back and look up the word in the first place, and to contemplate the implications of its meaning. And yet this review could just as easily — and rightly — claim that Cronenberg's film is an exciting, dramatic and thrilling look at a small town life overturned by the arrival of suspicious men from a protagonist's past, who threaten to reveal a secret he may or may not be hiding. It's a thrill ride! It's a deconstruction of the audience's relationship with the presentation of violence and our complicit participation in it! It's both — and therein lies the incredible accomplishment. A History of Violence is much more engaging and entertaining than some of the dry commentaries that have accompanied it; it's received those analyses because the depth of the work warrants it. The story of small town diner owner Tom (Viggo Mortenson) and his wife (Maria Bello), whose lives are interrupted by big city gangsters (Ed Harris and later, William Hurt) who claim that Tom is not all he seems is just the surface of this film; to relay its plot in that way is like describing Lake Ontario from the vantage point of the CN Tower. Cronenberg's own deconstruction of the film is wickedly fascinating — from the "acts of violence" "making of" to the inclusion (for the first time) of a deleted scene, as well as a "making of" that deleted scene, but the gem turns out to be (unusually for DVDs) Cronenberg's commentary. At times witty, engaging, thoughtful and incredibly incisive, his understanding of the interplay in his work deserves its own academic analysis. It's tempting, but in all honesty, watching the film is much more fun and nearly as illuminating. Plus: U.S. vs. International version featurette, more. (Alliance Atlantis)