A History of Violence


New Line/Warner, color, R (mature themes, violence, sexual situations, language), 95 min. plus supplements, Dolby Digital 5.1, widescreen, Street: March 14, $28.98; First Run: W, Sept. 2005, $31.6 mil.

“I think all my movies are funny—except maybe The Brood,” says filmmaker David Cronenberg in his commentary on the History of Violence DVD. It’s something to keep in mind while viewing this immaculately constructed study of the violent aspect of the American psyche. The film testifies to Cronenberg’s ability to imbue familiar material with his own singularly dark approach. His participation in every supplement in this package reflects a dedication to shaping every aspect of his creation. The result could be too much of a good thing, however, as the film is one of the most easily understood of Cronenberg’s works and doesn’t require the kind of analysis that his “biological horror” pics or dream-like films such as the recent Spider would. Carolyn Zeifman’s 66-minute making-of documentary has some bona fide chestnuts of information, but it’s comprised mostly of a scene-by-scene look at the film’s production with plenty of talking-head material in which the actors recount the plot and define their characters. Other bonus features include an interesting deleted dream sequence and two very uninteresting alternate takes of bloody moments, seen only in the international version. The most fascinating subjects addressed in the documentary and audio commentary are improvisation and, naturally enough, sex. Both supplements address the ways in which Cronenberg allows for last-minute decisions on framing a shot and ad-libbed lines from his actors. He gleefully notes in his commentary that he was told the first, more playful sex scene between co-stars Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello “is the first scene … from an American studio depicting what the French call soixante neuf (69)—I’m very proud to have broken through that barrier.” –Ed Grant