Sunday, 23 January 2011
Act of Violence 
Act of Violence had more fatalism in it than most noirs could hope for, and that is reason enough for me to classify it as a truly brilliant piece of cinema. This Fred Zinnemann film is a disturbing vision of a successful man suddenly finding his quietly secluded and happy life and the world around him disintegrating (read: crashing) into pieces; yet, despite its existential bleakness, the film is also quietness personified. The story involves a World War II veteran finding his darkest secret and haunted past suddenly popping out of nowhere when a mysterious crippled man starts looking for him with manic determination. The ominous buildup of the script aside, this brilliant cat-and-mouse tale had at its forefront a slew of sterling performances – not just from the two male protagonists (Van Eflin as the man on run and Robert Ryan as the enigmatic stalker), but also from the two ladies in supporting cast (Janet Leigh as the loving, beautiful wife and Mary Astor as a world-weary hooker). The melancholic soundtrack and the expressionistic camera-work do exemplary jobs in setting up the atmosphere of this moody and, at the risk of repeating myself, deeply fatalistic work of art. It is also a great piece on such gothic themes as guilt and retribution. I’m sure it wasn’t a matter of coincidence that David Cronenberg’s masterwork A History of Violence bears such striking thematic resemblance to this criminally underrated film.
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Genre: Film Noir/Psychological Thriller/Crime Drama