American Cinema VIolence Essay

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Director David Cronenberg’s movie “A History of Violence” brings a little known graphic novel to life. The main character, Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), seems to be living the idyllic life when it suddenly takes a turn for the worse. Two robbers attempt to hold up his diner in a little town in Indiana until Tom (protagonist) stops them by slamming a hot glass coffee pot into the face of one and three gunshots into the chest of the other. The scene’s carnage is heightened as bits of flesh dangle off the shattered bone of one robber while he chokes on the blood from his own body. The corpse of the other robber is shown lying in the mist of shattered glass with blood pouring from each gun wound. Tom’s heroic yet extreme reactions seem like something he does to save the day, and our desensitized conscience allows his reactions to settle as such. This type of brutal and unplanned violence becomes the protagonist’s way of making peace throughout the movie.
The title reflects not only the history of violence of the protagonist, but the history of violence in America. Perhaps this simple movie gracefully indicates how movie violence prevails as a reflection of American culture. “The History of Violence” is not just another gut spilling movie about a man running from his past, instead, it serves as a window into understanding the desire for movie violence in America. This movie can be seen as what critics consider a ‘cinema of excess’ in that it purposefully examines an extreme American situation. While critics argue that the movie is in many instances over contextualized, the average American may argue that the movie is not good enough because it poses very vague questions with no concrete answers. However, the beauty of this movie resides in these vague answers because they can be applied to numerous situations. In addition, this movie has a unique role because it is not only an example of movie violence, but it is also a reflection of violence in America. Nearly every American movie, from G rated to R rated movies, have some sort of movie violence. It is recognized that we want to see violent movies because box office numbers say so; in “Hollywood Violence” statistics show that 89 percent of films with high viewer ratings are centered around some type of violence. In the cinematic arena, movie violence regulations (MPAA codes) has a great history of being very lenient towards obscene violent films , however, this movie stands apart because it serves as an answer to why we secretly crave the violence that we publicly condemn.
In the movie, the protagonist (Tom) unwillingly became a national hero for defending his diner and fellow citizens from vicious robbers. Before this, he was blessed with the average, taken-for-granted American freedom and prosperity; he had a wife who devotedly loved him, two kids loving kids, and his own business. After his traumatic diner incident, his heroic fame caused people from his past to detect and pinpoint him. Carl...

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