Friday, October 21, 2005

A History of Violence

A Cronenberg Masterpiece
By Reymundo Salao

It has been quite a while since I was able to watch a really good serious drama film. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is about a simple happy family man named Tom Stall who has been confronted by dark and shady people that claim that they know him, and that they want to settle some business with him. In this gradually suspenseful case of mistaken identity, Tom is driven into a disturbing world that threatens to disrupt the peaceful family life that he lives.

The film takes a peek into real lives, real relationships, how perfect and pure it can be sometimes, and how incidents of violence tend to make tremendous damage and unpleasant changes into the happy life that it sends the relationships toppling down. The setting of the film takes place in a peaceful country setting of semi-rural America where citizens know each other and are generally polite with each other. The protagonist Tom Stall lives the perfect family life, but when visitors come to their town with violence in their mind, things begin to change from white to red and black.

The film has a really simple storyline but what sets it apart from other movies of the relatively similar storyline is its perfect tone and pace that flawlessly builds up the intensity and the atmosphere for suspense and a gradual sense of menace. It has been blessed with a really good director, cast and crew.

The cast of the film are not only good actors and actresses, but excellent character performers who have the talent to dive right in to a role that requires incredible character detail to the point that they can really breathe life into a whole new different, remarkable and unforgettable character. The main character of the film is played by Viggo Mortenssen (who is now popularly recognized as Lord of the Rings’ Aragorn), who has delivered a great portrayal of a man in agony and under pressure as his family is under threat because of an identity he never claims as his own. From his tiniest mannerisms up to his own posture, you can tell that he really immerses into a completely different character whenever he’s portraying this man who lives a peaceful life, now haunted by gangsters. Ed Harris’ role as Mr. Fogarty, the mob boss who haunts Tom, is as menacing as any movie monster, even though all he does is sit down and delivers his threatening little speech to Tom. His role in this film may be brief but prominent. But his character is equally unforgettable as the role of Ritchie portrayed by William Hurt. It’s rather unique and refreshing to see Hurt play a mob boss character, for he is well-known to play light roles, usually that of a father or a protagonist’s mentor. He contrasts his previous gentle roles with this bossy and quite vulgar one. Also in the film, and not to be undermined in terms of performance is the beautiful Maria Bello who plays Tom’s wife Edie, Ashton Holmes as Tom’s son Jack, and Heidi Hayes as Tom’s daughter Sarah.

The film is directed by David Cronenberg, who’s known for many good psychological and thought-provoking thrillers and chillers such as “The Dead Zone”, “The Fly” and “Dead Ringers” he has also directed “M. Butterfly”, his body of work has that of subtle and layered intensity themes. This film has a degree of simplicity but is filled with heavy tones of drama and stress layered into it. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is Cronenberg’s best film so far. Truly, on my opinion, the best drama picture of the year.

1 comment:

Adam said...

Indeed. I think the film's ability to work as a conventional suspense/drama while also maintaining such thoughtful and difficult ideas regarding identity and violence is remarkable. It was a good follow-up for Cronenberg, given how limited the appeal of his last film Spider was.

I agree about William Hurts' performance too; he was hysterical.