Navel Gazing Part 1: A History of Violence

Once again, the generous sponsorship of the Fruit Stand/DVD store made this review possible. Be sure to stop by and enjoy a 50% discount if you’re not American!

I’ve said I don’t enjoy writing movie reviews, so I’ll try to skirt around specifically “reviewing” the movie in that exact term, but it’ll be tough considering the movie is intertwined with its message.

Usually when someone goes out of his or her way to create something “deep,” “thought-provoking,” “challenging” or the like, the final product doesn’t end up being any of those things, if only because if it draws too much attention that goal (“deepness”) instead of the movie itself. It’s incestuous, but I’ll link here to my review of Inside Man with my brief commentary on its very out-of-continuity “thought-provoking” scene of the seemingly vicious bank robber being disgusted by a Grand Theft Auto-look-alike. A History of Violence practically begs for over-analysis starting with its vague but simultaneously pointed title. The director, David Cronenberg, is very much on the record talking about the philosophical issues raised by his movie.

I Violenced Your History!
All That You Can’t Leave Behind. (bonus points for invoking a U2 song in a faux-deep manner!)

Most “deep” movies become grossly over-analyzed, with the arguers forgetting what the movie was about and what happened in it (or what the movie wasn’t about and what didn’t happen it””Donnie Darko fans, I’m looking in your direction). Throw in some psycho-babble (“Munich was about how Israel became self-actualized in the 1970’s and 80’s”), and you’re good to go. Without putting it terms of whether it was a good movie or not, Munich certainly had enough going on it to not need this over-analysis. (Okay, to be fair, some people have complained that not much of anything happened in the movie, other than Eric Bana sweating like a maniac when he was getting his pump on.) Oddly enough, “A History of Violence” needs this discussion; not a whole lot happens in the movie; it could basically be considered an immediate and direct sequel to Goodfellas. (I liked A History of Violence enough that I won’t ruin the “how” and “why” that lingers throughout the story for our readership, but if you’ve seen Goodfellas, you’ll understand what I mean about it being the next step in the Goodfellas story.)

Sure, plenty happens in A History of Violence, but the characters spend so little time onscreen reflecting on it; the extent is really “how long have you lied to me? And did I marry your past or just an identity you arbitrarily created?” The viewers are in the same position as the characters after the open-ended conclusion of the movie. Like the characters, the viewers are asking themselves, “What’s in me? What am I capable of if something needed to be done?” “Would I be able to leave behind my “

5 Replies to “Navel Gazing Part 1: A History of Violence”

  1. i know that saying “the book was better” is an automatic gut reaction for almost every fan of any book, but i can’t help but say this to everyone who liked this movie.

    so many movies from books, or graphic novel as the case may be, either try to hard to be exactly like the book, and i understand the difficulty in translating from book to screen, but this was a book that was DESTINED to be an amazing movie. it had three acts, it had a message, it wasn’t empty at all. it made people consider all the things that the movie did, but it wasn’t empty. a lot of the movies based on bookswill clue you in to how bad they are in the trailer or in the first 20 minutes, and that’s what makes it so bad in this instance. the first 20 or 30 minutes are straight out of the book. the casting is perfect, they all give great performances, and the few subtle changes fit perfectly with the tone. i don’t even mind that they added the sex scenes. even they added something to the point about the nature of violence. it showed the change when his past came out. and then it went to vacuous shit. i’m sure if i hadn’t read the book i’d feel differently, but i did, so i don’t.

    hell, even my dad read it and came to me all excited, “did you say they made this into a movie? this will be a great fucking movie!” and then we saw it and we both felt like we were kicked in the balls by mr. cronenberg. the last two acts were completely different. the book is even more jarring and shows the past for what it really is. you get an idea of exactly why the is the way he is., instead of just hearing that he did bad things you’d get to see some small oprtion of it, and even get to see how bad the people are that are coming after him. and it’s not a sibling rivalry, it’s a hwhole lot bigger than that. i know i’m not getting to any specific point, but i hate spoilers and don’t want to read the book. honestly, i think anybody who liked th movie should read the book. that’s the proper order. if you read the book first then watch the movie will be the most disappointing movie ever.

    i’m not sure if this rambling comment actually went anywhere, but the point is that i intend to become a really famous director (or producer or writer) one day and make this graphic novel into the movie it has the potential to be.

  2. dan, i saw this movie last year in the theatre, and it was solid, but that’s not why i write. i would have sent this in a personal e-mail, but i forgot your gmail address.

    annnyways, a couple of weeks ago at my current internship, one of my bosses referred to me as a “big galoot”, which sparked a memory of our one-time debate including you, kurt, andy, and myself as to whether “big galoot” is a positive or negative term. my boss clearly meant it as a jovial referrence, as he is also eighty inches tall, leading me to believe in my own argument concluding in that a big galoot is more a term to describe an “goofy-yet-affable” fellow, as opposed to your more sinister take on the phrase.

    so nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyaaah-naaaaaaah-naaaaaaaaaah. let me know when/if you’ll be back in evanston, a reunion is in order.

  3. Jeff: It looks you’ve fallen for that oh-so-typical trap of corporate America… always thinking your boss is right. It’s sad to see such an independent thinker such as yourself fall victim this to this philosophy of supplicants. Your boss is not right. I am.

    I’m not sure I’ll be heading back over to Evanston soon. I do the “grown-up” job thing, so my schedule isn’t very flexible. I did just get back from 5 weeks in China for my company though. I doubt you’re going to be headed to China when I’m there again, though.

  4. …who the hell would give you a grown-up anything, master fuller?

    haahaha, just kidding. for serious though, it’s neither you nor my boss who is right, but it is rather myself that is correct; my boss is simply true in his name-calling because it agrees with my view of the world, and you are simply in the wrong but disagreeing with me.

    nice try, holmes.

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