Cinema Sutra: A History of Violence

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The movie: Viggo Mortensen is just a straightforward cook at a small-town diner, right? Well, apparently not, for when two guys come in to rob the joint, he puts a professional smackdown on them. Turns out the Vig’s history is more than a little checkered.

The scene: Finding out your hubby has a very violent past that he never mentioned tends to put a strain on a relationship. Here Maria Bello and Mortensen begin by arguing, she slaps him (which we never endorse except in play), and then they move on to a little rough stairwell sex. Not exactly Conflict Resolution 101, but hey…

What you need:
• a stairwell (optional)
• a partner
• unresolved anger

Maria Bello Sex SceneFunny bloopers R us

The mechanics: Okay, not all domestic disputes make the best springboards to hot humping, so perhaps Viggo and Maria had a little leg up with the whole, “Oh, so you used to be a professional killer?” thing. That said, even if you only have a history of malfeasance, any yelling match will get the adrenaline flowing, and that’s potential sexual energy that with the right finesse can be turned kinetic.

Unfortunately, the way it unfolds in A History of Violence isn’t really the way to play it out at home. At the outset of the scene, it looks like Viggo’s going to respond to her slap simply by forcing himself on his irate wife (it should go without saying that that’s never okay unless you’re role-playing and have talked it through in advance). Still, our bad-guy/good-guy pushes her back on the stairwell and spreads her legs while she tries to fight him off, whereas you’ll be much better served just grabbing the back of your partner’s head (not too forcibly) mid-argument and pulling her/him to you for an unexpected kiss. Sometimes they’ll pull back yet more furious, other times the energy will be right and the kiss will transform the dynamic from angry and punitive to sexy and conspiratorial (and maybe still a little punitive). Now you’re on track!

In the film, their energy changes when he pushes back her hand with one of his, and with the other grabs her throat. She pauses for a second, as if processing the thought, “Oh, that’s kind of sexy,” and when he inexplicably stops and leans back, she takes matters into her hands by grabbing his head and pulling him into the kiss.

Now, if you haven’t done it, grabbing your lover’s neck can potentially be both scary and a little dangerous. The thing to know is that you can grab but you don’t choke; you’re suggesting the cutting off of breathing, not actually doing it. Some people hate having hands on their throat, but for others it can intensify sex or foreplay dramatically. If you want to find out, start just by placing your hand on your partner’s neck and see if they brush it away. If not, you can try a light squeeze when the timing calls for it (think pedal already to the metal). Just be careful and very attentive.

Lesson we learn: Most of the time, transforming anger into sexual propulsion is akin to turning on the rocket boosters, so from that point it’s clothes-ripping, stairs/floor/table/anywhere will do, no foreplay, no delicacy, all-out fucking. (Though try to remember the condom!) In the clip, Bello’s underwear only get pulled up; in practice, you’ll have to get them off if you want things to proceed easily. But the rest strikes me as realistic: the urgency, the semi-violence, the animal need and aggression that can make for excellent sex — and, as a bonus, the chance for really sweaty, exhausted, genuine making-up afterward. Marriage counselors wouldn’t advise this as a regular way of resolving disputes, but if every now and then what would have been just another fight can turn into great sex and real (and I mean this in every way) hardcore intimacy, life clearly benefits.

Click here to read — and learn — more in Nerve’s Hollywood Sex Scene Database.