Sunday, September 25, 2005

Viggo Problems

David Cronenberg's A History Of Violence (2005) (opening nationwide in the UK from Friday) has been variously described as the best English language film of the year so far; Cronenberg's most accessible since his remake of The Fly and even the finest film of his career to date. The first and third claims are stretching to the point of hyperbolic but Dead Kenny would concur that his latest film, effectively a three-act piece based on a relatively obscure graphic novel, is certainly his most linear narrative since the the gene-splicing adventures of Brundlefly.

The less you know about the plot the better, but the starting premise has Viggo Mortenson and Maria Bello as a loving couple in smalltown USA whose modest but idyllic family lifestyle is irrevocably changed when Viggo's instinctively heroic response to a diner robbery stirs up a hornet's nest of mistaken/misplaced identities and mob recriminations. The pacing is deliberate (perhaps too much so for your average multiplex crowd) and the mood tense and unsettling, interrupted intermittently by sudden bursts of stunningly choreographed violence and spontaneous sexual charge.

As you'd expect from Cronenberg, underneath the fairly straightforward plot structure there's an awful lot more than narrative mechanics going on under the bonnet, giving Mortenson and Bello plenty to get their hands dirty on. Bello, on something of a roll after The Cooler, turns in a fearless performance as the lawyer simultaneously appalled and aroused by her husband's latent propensity for shitkicking violence, and it ought to earn her a Best Supporting Actress nomination come Oscartime.

The result is a troubling film in terms of its ambivalence towards the innate violence in mankind, which has even led to some suggestions that the film is a veiled vindication of the US response to 9/11 (the dormant savagery reawakened by the need to protect family and the American Way etc.). The uneasy final sequence would suggest to Dead Kenny, however, that the message is more that men need to come to terms with their inner beast rather than pretending it doesn't exist, before they can truly evolve.


Blogger Dead Kenny said...

The bizarrest thing happened when I saw this preview screening last night - three youths marched in and took seats in one of the middle rows just as the rough sex scene started (some 1 hour into the film), waited until Maria Bello's post-shag full frontal, one of them said 'yeah, nice tits' and then they got up and walked straight out again.

Wtf?! Is this fast-forward culture gone mad? Or were they doing it as some kind of bet?

8:58 PM  
Anonymous graybo said...

Perhaps they were coming to terms with their inner beast?

7:48 AM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Maybe, but I'm not holding my breath for them to evolve into anything but five-finger shufflers.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous olav said...

I read the graphic novel last year and loved it. Only I'm sure Mr Cronenburg has changed the source material so much that I might groan (which is entirely my own fault, due to the old book-film adaptation conflicts).

9:42 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

I've not read the graphic novel, Olav, but I understand there have been quite a few changes.

The storyline was quite clearly set out in three acts, however, suggesting the original material was perhaps three comicbook editions that then formed a compendium?

I'm sure you'll enjoy the film, but I know what you mean about adaptations of books you've read ('The Rules Of Attraction' immediately springs to mind...)

9:50 PM  

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