Monday, July 02, 2007

Movies. Two Of Them.

A History of Violence
Directed by David Cronenberg

This film was a critical darling and gained a few Academy award nominations, but I can't imagine why.

Viggo Mortensen plays a mild mannered café operator who becomes a local hero after he kills a couple of nasty would be robbers. However he himself has an unpleasantly violent past (in the opening flashback we see him kill a child in cold blood) and it comes back to haunt him.

The setup has some potential but my moral sensibilities were more than a little offended by the way the plot developed. The film fairly overtly states that violence is the solution to everything. Not only does Mortensen resolve his troubles by viciously murdering the gangsters who are chasing him but it is explicitly noted that the gangsters made a mistake by not killing him as soon as they could. The worst scene is where Mortensen gets his wife back by holding her down and initiating violent sex. Because of course that's the way it works in the real world...

They can throw in a scene of Mortensen washing the blood off his hands (and shirt so we get a chance to heterosexually admire his chiselled body) at the end but it doesn't justify the warped morality of the rest of the movie.

The Lives of Others
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

This was a much better movie. Set in Eastern Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall, the plot follows a Stasi spy assigned to keep an eye on a prominent playwright. It gets a little melodramatic towards the end, and there are some quite cheesy scenes, but I really liked the message, which is that art can change a persons life, and it can change the world. I don't know how much I believe that is true, but it's still a message I can enjoy. Beautifully directed too.


Joel said...

I can't remember the specifics of the movie anymore since I saw it a while ago, but I quite liked "A History of Violence". I don't think it was trying necessarily justify any of the violence. The main message I saw as being conveyed was that leopards can't change their spots.

'The worst scene is where Mortensen gets his wife back by holding her down and initiating violent sex. Because of course that's the way it works in the real world...'

Unfortunately that happens :( People go back to abusive relationships and emotions make fucked up things seem right.

Jon said...

Well yeah, no disagreement with you on the last point. I just thought that taken together with the rest of the movie there was an explicit indication that violence was always the answer. From what I read on the wikipedia page it seems that that may be what Cronenberg intended.

Joel said...

I might have to give it another watching then to decide.

I wonder if Cronenberg supports this view of 'violence solves everything', or was it just the movies theme... hmm.

Jon said...

From the wikipedia entry on the film:

"David Cronenberg suggests three possibilities: "(1) to a suspect with a long history of violence; (2) to the historical use of violence as a means of settling disputes, and (3) to the innate violence of Darwinian evolution, in which better-adapted organisms replace those less able to cope", with the last as the dominant focus of the film"