A History of Violence appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Not too many issues cropped up in this generally fine transfer.
My only complains related to shadows. Low-light shots tended to seem a bit murky and muddy. I thought some of this was intentional, but I still found the dark scenes to come across as too thick. Blacks were deep and full, however, and the movie's mostly naturalistic palette looked solid. The flick featured the subdued end of that spectrum but made sure the colors were clear and smooth.
Sharpness appeared excellent. At all times I thought the movie was crisp and well-delineated, and I noticed no signs of softness. Jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns, and edge enhancement appeared absent. As for source flaws, I noticed a speck or two at most. Overall, the movie looked very good.
Since A History of Violence offered a quiet experienced punctuated by a few brief scenes of action, the Dolby Digital 5.1 worked along the same path. The soundfield usually stayed fairly restricted. Music showed good stereo presence and I heard decent environmental material as well. For the most part, there wasn’t much to make the mix lively.
That changed during the smattering of violent scenes, though. Those managed to open up the spectrum well as they created quick but involving pieces. The surrounds came into action during those sequences and helped make this a more interesting mix.
Audio quality was always satisfying. Speech seemed natural and concise, with no edginess or other problems. Music sounded bright and full, while effects were concise and accurate. Bass response appeared appropriately warm and deep. Though this wasn’t a standout track, it lived up to expectations.
When we move to the set’s extras, we start with an audio commentary with director David Cronenberg. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Cronenberg discusses story, themes, and interpretation, characters and performances, sets and locations, cinematography and the movie’s visual style, deleted segments, and a few production topics.
Cronenberg offers an unusual introspective and rich look at his film. He really digs into the movie’s meaning and what it tries to say. This adds texture to the material and makes this a useful and informative view of the movie.
Next we get a documentary entitled Acts of Violence. It runs one hour, six minutes, 13 seconds and includes the usual allotment of movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We find notes from Cronenberg, screenwriter Josh Olson, director of photography Peter Suschitzky, makeup supervisor Stephan Dupuis, producer Chris Bender, assistant set decorator Danielle Fleury, editor Ron Sanders, first assistant director Walter Gasparovic, on set dresser Greg Pelchat, composer Howard Shore, key hair dresser Mary-Lou Green-Benvenuti, SPFX supervisor Neil Trifunovich, costume designer Denise Cronenberg, production designer Carol Spier, dialogue coach John Nelles, gun wrangler “Frenchie” Berger, and actors Viggo Mortensen, Greg Bryk, Stephen McHattie, Ashton Holmes, Ed Harris, Maria Bello, and William Hurt.
The show covers Cronenberg’s approach on the set, casting, characters and the actors, sets and visual design, stunts and effects, the movie’s depiction of violence, Cronenberg’s crew and his history with them, makeup and costumes, and script issues. As with the commentary, “Acts” presents an unusually intelligent look at the film. We get many fine notes about the actors’ work and Cronenberg’s choices, and we also find plenty of the usual nuts and bolts material. The shots from the set are particularly interesting, as it’s fun to see them work on the shots. This is a strong documentary.
Violence’s History: US Version Vs. International Version goes for 83 seconds. Cronenberg details the minor changes made to keep an “R” from the MPAA. We see the European shots and get comparisons in this helpful clip.
The eight-minute and 52-second Too Commercial for Cannes follows Cronenberg as he wanders through different duties at the famous film festival. We see various aspects of that experience in this short piece. It’s a moderately interestingly little program.
One deleted scene appears. Called “Scene 44”, it runs two minutes, 46 seconds. Most of that focuses on a dream sequence. It’s not anything stellar, but it’s interesting to see. We can watch the scene with or without commentary from Cronenberg. He provides some background and lets us know why he cut it.
A look at that segment, The Unmaking of Scene 44 goes for seven minutes, four seconds. It provides remarks from Cronenberg, Harris, Bender, Trifunovich, and Dupuis. They provide some information about filming the deleted segment and give us another nice look behind the scenes.
The DVD opens with ads for Take the Lead, 11:14, Havoc and Domino These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area with a clip for Puerta Vallarta Squeeze. We get the theatrical trailer for Violence too.
A History of Violence may be one of those movies that impresses more on subsequent viewings. For my first screening, I thought the film had interesting moments but failed to coalesce into anything memorable. Although I reserve the right to change my mind, that’s how I feel at first blush. The DVD offers very solid picture and audio plus some fine extras like an insightful audio commentary and a detailed documentary. There’s enough quality work here to merit my recommendation of at least a rental.