Pajiba rounds up 20 mind-blowing facts about David Cronenberg’s 2005 film A History of Violence. Okay, so maybe they’re not quite mind-blowing, but they are interesting for the most part. I liked number 2, which is about the long single-take tracking shot that opens the film.
2. Cronenberg put a lot of thought into the four minute, single take that is the “much talked about” opening shot. The director thought he might cut into or shorten it, but the scene worked so well he decided to keep it. The credits begin over an actual scene with dialogue, something Cronenberg avoided for years because he “thought it felt like television.” Normally the director does a “vestibule (an entrance to the film that is not the movie) so the audience has a chance to segue from their lives to the movie,” but he decided to try the credits over scene this time. Though he traditionally does music, Cronenberg found whatever musical cues they (he and Composer Howard Shaw) put over the scene spoiled the tension that was there. “You don’t know what to think about these men, whether they are in danger or dangerous themselves. Is it sinister or is it not? You don’t really know. We ended up with cicadas and crickets and a little radio music.”
Here’s the shot:
I also enjoyed number three, in which Cronenberg talks about how the exteriors of the town (a real place, Millbrook, Ontario) were shot to look intentionally artificial.
The exterior shots of the street were intentionally Edward Hopper-ish and lighting was expressionistic “because the reality in the movie is a fantasy of reality.” Cronenberg made gestures toward a “naive, innocent past that possibly never existed—seen in Rod Serling’s ‘Twilight Zone.’ The town is maybe too perfect, (something) America itself wants to believe.”
This I think is the core of the film’s power and the reason it resonated so deeply in Bush’s America.