A History Of Violence (2005)

RATING: 4/ 5

DIRECTOR: David Cronenberg

From the opening scene there is a sense of threat that is beneath the surface. There is no film score or opening soundtrack of music. We hear the natural sounds contained in the scene and watch as two men exit a cheap motel. One goes back inside to pay and comes out again. The other then goes in to fill some water up to ready themselves on their journey.  There is anticipation and suspense building, something is not quite right. As the whole scene take place director David Cronenberg’s camera does something interesting. The camera never cuts. The scene is shot in one shot. It is that which creates a lengthy anticipation and vibe of weariness. This scene sets how we are to prepare our minds for the rest of the film. Appearance is one thing but what is behind that maybe more significant.

historyviggoMortensen plays Tom Stall, a small town diner owner who is the everyman. He knows his community well, and they know him. When the two local crooks come in when the shop is shutting, Stall hesitates but can read the situation well. The crooks become threatening and the  nice everyman Stall takes charge of the situation violently becoming a smalltown hero.  He becomes headline news sold as a hero. His wife Edie ( Bello) tries to support him but bigger things are at work. A shady character in Fogarty (Harris) comes into town convinced that Stall is a Philly thug called Joey. While tension is building between these characters, Stall’s son Jack (Holmes) is struggling with bullies at school and has to make choices there.

historybullyWhen is violence justified? You may ask that after watching this film, one may even say by watching it, we are encouraging violence. How far is one willing to go to protect a family?  The film also asks the viewer to ponder if a person can move beyond his past or is he trapped?

I enjoy this film because rewatching it creates  uneasiness and becomes  confrontational. Perhaps it is a film applicable now more than before with what is happening in current events. How long is violence accepted as a way out?


Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall

Maria Bello as Edie Stall

Ashton Holmes as Jack Stall

Ed Harris as Carl Fogarty

William Hurt as Richie Cussack



One thought on “A History Of Violence (2005)

  1. Paul, you write well to create the scene authoritatively and authentically although I have not seen this movie. The questions you have posed requires a response. The question here is is whether the depiction has a motive or purpose. Is it gratuitous or graphic violence? If the “sitz im leben” justifies the director’s artistic motive then one could accept some violence. What is not predictable is the effect on those who watch that movie.


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