A2P Cinema 100 Films of the Aughts
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A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
2005 - David Cronenberg - United States
26

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"There's no such thing as monsters. You were just having a bad dream." David Cronenberg's A History of Violence is a masterpiece of filmmaking. A complex film dealing with complex issues, that are heightened by Cronenberg's masterful intelligence and skill with the audience. Here Cronenberg is playing with the audiences conventions and expectations, resulting in a film that is truly thought-provoking and compelling. Even though the film plays with conventions and expectations it still manages to be a film unlike almost anything else in terms of tone and atmosphere. In many ways, A History of Violence is a rarity: an art film posing itself as a genre thriller (as opposed to the more commonly made conventional thriller posing as an art film). Cronenberg is using all the cliches of the action/noir/thriller genres, as well as the wholesome small-town and tough big-city cliches to his advantage. He uses all of the standard genre expectations of violence, as well as the general emotional response to the violence, and blends them into a film that questions the violence in a way that is deeply thought-provoking. Through locations, visuals, emotions and characters, A History of Violence is a film that is always contrasting itself (violence and pacifism, small town and big city, Tom Stall and Joey Cusak)- all captured flawlessly in two opposing sex scenes of the film. Ultimately Cronenberg is leaving uncertainties to the overall response while examining that things should not be viewed or placed in simple terms of black and white. From the opening shot over the titles you know the film is unique and visual and oddly funny. Then the film becomes violent and like a nightmare before quickly cutting to a young girl awaking from a nightmare in which she envisioned "monsters". The film ends with a moving and strangely hopeful un-concluding closing shot of the Stall family. Not to go without mentioning is the terrific performances by the cast, notably Ed Harris, Maria Bello and especially Viggo Mortensen who is perfectly casted as he portrays the leading man (husband, father, hero) with a mysterious and haunting past. A History of Violence is a masterpiece of filmmaking on all levels. A film to ponder and observe our own reactions to it as it blends with conventions, yet recreating itself at the same time. This film is above all visual one that holds more and more layers underneath it's surface. Through Cronenberg's vision the film becomes an artistic and multiple layered examination on both the audience and filmmaking- much like Alfred Hitchcock mastered with Rear Window. A History of Violence is a rare cinematic experience, and perhaps the very best film Cronenberg has ever made!
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