A Brush of Violence
Daniel Lawrence Wilson
📷 : Used with permission, Daniel Lawrence Wilson
Suspenseful and intense thrillers
Movies and TV shows with heavy subjects
“Always remember why you started in the first place.”
Popular wisdom on adversity contends that how we respond to disappointments and setbacks reveal a lot about our inner strength and focus. Do we persist when things initially don’t go our way, or do we cut and run in a different direction? I think the thinking here is simplistic since it considers neither the context of our lives nor our complexity as individuals. In other words, we neither cope with nor respond to happenings in the same ways. A Brush of Violence highlights this issue, but also leads us to consider our own fragility as it relates to our passions and disappointments.
A Brush of Violence centers Vio, a reclusive artist who is famous for his provocative and violent paintings. After years of anonymity and being isolated in his home, he requests that Akila, a photographer, come to his home to take pictures of him that would amount to an unveiling of the man behind the paintings. Played by Mia Krystyna (Solitude, A Letter on Loss), the sedate and unflappable Akila is initially hesitant, though also curious why he chose her. She accepts Vio’s invitation, realizing it as a rare opportunity to boost her career ambitions.
Darren Streibrig’s cinematography for the film is dark, fitting for the subject matter about a man who rarely ventures beyond the brick masonry and stone walls of his vast, eerie, and isolated estate. Joseph Holiday and Snakes of Russia’s soundtrack of low notes and shrieking violins add an ominous tone that hangs throughout the presentation. When combined with the minimal though profound dialog, it completes the film’s doomy feel. So, when Vio, played by Yavor Vesselinov (The Bridge, Adultery), asks Akila how far she will go to be remembered, we get the sense that something dark and unimaginable might happen during her visit.
The 40-minute film contains some unexplained symbolism with flashes of color and masks. This may be frustrating for some of us since we’re not keen to Vio’s experiences, motivations, and what brought him to his life as a recluse. But films of all genres and lengths contain elements that are annoying and off-putting. I am reminded of several Spike Lee films that are laden with symbolism and special effects forced into the productions, disrupting an otherwise seamless movie-watching experience. The 2006 film Inside Man and the 1991 hit Jungle Fever come to mind. Both were, nonetheless, engaging films with strong lessons. In A Brush of Violence, the annoyance of the symbols is dampened by writer/director Daniel Lawrence Wilson’s use of multiple locations and the large cast of extras appearing in scenes at a bar and an art gallery, for example. Unusual for short films, these elements seem to make the movie come up for air after what feels like a dark and suffocating visit with Vio.
Over an eerie silence, Vio and Akila engage in a conversation that gently stirs our emotions with light fingertips as the two use few words to talk about passion, aspiration, and ego. At one point, Vio, in his light, monotone voice advises Akila to “Always remember why you started in the first place” and later asking rhetorically, “What if there was never a day you were forgotten?”
Vio’s musings hint that he lost himself sometime during his career, and that the passionate painting he once relished was somehow derailed. Despite his famed accomplishments, he is deeply saddened by not having fulfilled his ambitions and is now concerned about his legacy. In this sense, A Brush of Violence is similar to the passion exhibited in the 2008 tearjerker, The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke received an Oscar nomination for his role as Randy “The Ram,” a retired wrestler who has settled into a life outside the ring. While he works to make amends for his past failings as a father and husband, he longs for the fame and popularity he once reaped from the sport. He seizes the opportunity to get back into the ring, telling his fans that they are the only people to tell him when he’s through “doing his thing.” Passionate but not as brazen and vocal, Vio in A Brush of Violence is similarly concerned about his legacy and wants to solidify it on his own terms.
I think many of us, especially those over 40, can relate to this. We begin our work lives with every intention of doing what we love, but we abandon it for practical reasons, or we are forced to leave it because of a life event. Also, sometimes, crap just happens! Our response to these disappointments varies, for instance dabbling in our passions on the weekends or returning to them after the dust has settled in our lives — to restore the essence of ourselves. I’m hoping Vio’s response to his disappointments is the exception. Check out this intriguing film and you’ll see what I mean.