Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

We're trying to get back to normal here: a case-study of David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence"

Bishop, David



David Cronenberg is arguably one of the world’s most acclaimed cult directors, his films renowned for their depictions of body horror and transgressive outsiders. But five years ago he found himself enduring a run of critically acclaimed flops, with each successive failure making it harder and harder to finance his next project.
Cronenberg responded with A History of Violence (2005), his first Hollywood studio feature since the 1980s. The cult director adapted an obscure graphic novel, yet created perhaps the most mainstream film of his career. But A History of Violence may also be his most subversive film, both celebrating and deconstructing the American dream. This paper will offer a case study of the adaptation, comparing the graphic novel by Judge Dredd creator John Wagner and artist Vince Locke with Josh Olson’s screenplay. It will examine the cinematic genres and cultural touchstones invoked by the filmmakers, and consider how these enriched a spare, seemingly uncomplicated mainstream thriller. The paper will go beyond the film to examine critical responses, and how they were coloured by attitudes to American foreign policy at the time. Finally, it will look at Cronenberg’s role in the cinematic paratexts that preceded and accompanied A History of Violence, debating the importance of his cult cache to the film’s reception.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (Published)
Start Date Nov 25, 2009
End Date Nov 25, 2009
Publication Date 2009-11
Deposit Date Apr 1, 2010
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords David Cronenberg; "A History of Violence"; graphic novels; cult director;
Public URL