A History of Violence  (2005)

A History of Violence (2005)

David Cronenberg

  • Born: 1943
  • Rank: 100
  • Score: 475.90
  • Feature Films: 16
  • Best Film: A History of Violence – 2005
  • Worst Film: The Brood – 1979

Top 5:

  1. A History of Violence – 2005
  2. Eastern Promises – 2007
  3. Dead Ringers – 1988
  4. Existenz – 1999
  5. Spider – 2002

Top 10 Best Director finishes (Nighthawk awards):

  • 2005 – 4th – A History of Violence
  • 2007 – 6th – Eastern Promises

It took a long time for Cronenberg to work his way up this list. He was on the initial list I wrote in my Powells notebook back in mid-2003 when I first decided that I needed to see every film by the great directors, but when I finished watching his films, I eliminated him because his early films were so weak. He is the anti-Rob Reiner. Reiner’s first five films average a 93.2, while Cronenberg’s average a 38.8. But the average of all their films is a 66 for Reiner and a 63 for Cronenberg, so one has gone steadily down and the other one steadily up.

Cronenberg started out in low budget horror films, but then so did a lot of people who are on this list (Peter Weir and Peter Jackson both come to mind). What Cronenberg’s early films lack is the kind of humor often found in low budget horror films. He went right for the gore. It wasn’t until his sixth and seventh films, both released in 1983 that he finally started to make good on his promise. Videodrome is a fascinating film and The Dead Zone still stands as one of the better Stephen King adaptations.

In 1988 he finally broke through with Dead Ringers, a very good, but very disturbing film. Through the 90’s, he made films that were okay (Naked Lunch, M. Butterfly), terrible (Crash – people love it or hate it and I hate it) and very good (Existenz), but disturbing continued to be the adjective to describe them all.

Finally, this decade, Cronenberg has really broken through. Spider was a good film, but his two most recent films are far and away the two best films he has ever done, ranking 4th and 7th for their respective years. He’s got nothing lined up yet, but let’s hope it stars Viggo and a blonde. That seems to work.

A History of Violence – #4 film of 2005

A History of Violence is a perfect example of why you don’t always have to read the source material of a good film. It’s adapted from a graphic novel, and reading the graphic novel after I watched the film I was surprised at how much better the film was. It took a different slant on approaching the characters, most notable making William Hurt’s character Viggo’s brother.

The title is the first fantastic thing about the film. There is the first interpretation, when talking about characters and their history of violence, one which is certainly applicapble to Viggo, Hurt and Ed Harris. Then there is the second concept — the idea that looking through the history of violence we can understand why people act the way they do. Cronenberg even added a third interpretation, the Canadian director looking at the way violence exists in this country.

A History of Violence takes the notion from Falling Down, that someone reacts when pushed to the brink, but it’s upfront that its character has a history of such things (even though the other characters don’t know it), while Falling Down tried to market itself as a normal man snapping, when that character also had a history of such acts. Viggo reacts instinctively the way he has been taught by his past, but he also reacts to protect his family and his trip to Philadelphia to conclude the film both gives us a glimpse at how he became the man who could smash someone with a coffee pot and how he would later become the man who would be content simply serving people coffee.