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History of Violence

There's a wonderful little moment that occurs in good story-telling: you're sitting there watching the movie or whatever, thinking to yourself, "Okay (sigh) I know how this is going to go", and then something happens that makes you sit up... oh, my, didn't expect that... and suddenly your view of one or more of the characters, or of the story itself, drastically changes.

This moment is known as a "perception shift". As in, your perception of what is happening, or of what a character is about, suddenly shifts.

Readers or viewers love these moments. Writers kill for them. When they actually work, I mean. Just throwing in some new story element or bit of character behavior won't do the trick. We have to feel like the world of the movie (or the book, or whatever) has suddenly been believably and intriguingly overturned.

I haven't seen the graphic novel upon which "History of Violence" is based. And if I am familiar enough with a DVD to know that I eventually want to see it, I usually try to avoid reading the liner notes on its box.

So what all of that means is that I was perfectly set-up for the perception shift that comes within the first half-hour of "History of Violence", and I was quite delighted by it when it came. There I was thinking I knew where this thing was going, and actually beginning to think that I really didn't feel like watching that movie again and so maybe I would just pull the plug on it, when bang!

Very nice perception shift.

This is not "The Best Movie of the Year" as one of the quoted reviews on the DVD's box maintains, but it's a good movie nevertheless. Or... let me put it this way:

I don't know how you feel about perception shifts, but when I encounter one that is well-executed it really makes my day. Actually, I think I'm kind of a p.s. junkie. I really need that feeling of the world sliding sideways. When I get it, it's enough to make me forgive a movie for whatever flaws it might otherwise have.

And so: I forgive this movie. Whole-heartedly.

[Netflix, B & N, ]


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