By looking at the title of this post and choosing to read on, you are, at the very least, open to the idea of a weird movie. This is an important step, I think. “Weird” is an abstract concept, one that for the purposes of this post means where what you’re seeing collides with your perception of reality. Think of the final minutes of 2001: A Spacey Odyssey or, more recently, the beginning and the end of The Tree of Life.
What makes us associate the weirdness with those examples more than, say, traditional Hollywood comedy? Comedy is rooted in expectation. When a situation defies our expectation of what we think should happen, we laugh. You don’t expect Brad Pitt to bite the bullet in Burn After Reading so quickly and brutally, so when he does it comes off as comical, but him walking on a beach with other lost souls in Tree of Life is just out there.
Image courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes
A History of Violence
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: Josh Olson (screenplay), John Wagner & Vince Locke (graphic novel)
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, and William Hurt
When David Cronenberg decided to direct this brutal, idealistic masterpiece in 2005, it was snubbed royally by both the Academy Awards and general public. As time wore on, though, and the end of the decade lists needed to be made, A History of Violence rightfully appeared on them.
Once you see the movie, the title will evoke Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. That’s how definitive it is on the subject. Cronenberg knows that violence is a part of human DNA, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. He uses this to create a visually stunning, relentlessly violent assault on the typical American family.
The Stahls are that family. Once the film moves past it’s brutal introduction, we see that almost too perfectly. They banter carelessly, the children are obedient stereotypes, and the couple are hopelessly in love. Thankfully, Croneneberg doesn’t stay there for long. We see Tom (Viggo Mortensen) and Edie (Maria Bello) engage in wildly erotic, kinky sex after the kids are gone. We see their son Jack (Ashton Holmes) do well in gym class and then almost get pummeled.