I wish David Cronenberg would make more films like this one. Unlike many of his other films, A History of Violence does not descend into the absurd to provide us with stirring insights. AHOV is equal parts Godafther (I and III), Unforgiven, Blue Velvet, and American Beauty. An odd mix, but it works.
The film centers on Tom Stall, a loving family man who raises his precious, obedient children in a small, idyllic Indiana town. Sacchrine familial interactions are commonplace in the Stall household (the introductory sequence finds all members of the family rushing to comfort the youngest daughter as she wakes from a nightmare about monsters). Tom's peaceful world is unsettled as two men attempt to rob his diner. Tom (played by a wonderfully understated Viggo Mortonsen) attempts to placate the robbers, who are established in the opening sequence as VERY bad men, but they will have none of it. Tom kills the robbers with stunning aplomb, saving his loyal patrons. His heroics quickly become media fodder, his face is splashed across all news channels. This attention brings out the riff-raff who believe Tom is a violent gangster. But, is he? Is he a stranger in this life?(There are numerous diagetic clues, such as the intials of Tom and his wife Edie that are displayed around the house--"ET").
Cronenberg makes some intriguing insights about the nature of violence. The film articulates society's complex relationship violence, never really condeming or condoning violence. Inaction during the robbery would have surely doomed Tom and his friends, ergo violence necessary. Media coverage glorifying the heroics of violence brings on more violence, ergo violence bad. I believe that there exists a strong undercurrent of relating violence to gender roles. Men commit violence, women hate it, attempt to control it (the wife is the town attorney), but in the end, find it stimulating (a savage love scene illustrates such).
There is a clear, yet complex interaction between violence and the American "dream" (Cronenberg is Canadian). In fact, faithful reader, we can have a long conversation on the title alone. Is it "A" history of violence? Are there mutliple histories? Is it about Tom, who has a history of violence? Is it how violence is passed on (there is a solid, but underdeveloped subplot involving his son and the local bully)? I think it is the subtitle to a larger treatise, America: A History of Violence.
Cronenberg borrows from numerous other films. There is a shot reminiscent of the final scene in the Godfather, but this time we get to see what is behind the closed door. Well shot and Well acted. Cronenberg is an underrated director; but, I think is trying to cast of the shackles of the anti horror-director bias.
Soild film that is a great conversation starter. I think it is your kind of film (no pretense of an audience larger than one).