K-punk's rejection of my reading of A History of Violence rests on one claim: that I "surrreptitiously resolve the film's ontological tension, by assuming that the 'Joey reality' is ontologically inferior to the 'Tom reality'. Yet, as he quickly concedes, I, in fact, do not do this: "As Jodi herself notes, the Stall domestic Paradiso is no more 'real'(istic) than the organized crime Inferno..."
Nothing in my reading of the film suggests this ontological prioritization. Rather, as I emphasize throughout my discussion, the film is a set of interlocking fantasies and I read these fantasies as primarily those of the son (the possible angle of the wife's fantasies are clearly subordinate in that we don't get any sense of what sort of dilemmas she may be encountering; thus, the fantastic quality of the long-term, sexually hot, loving relationship with a perfect man who is ultimately a stranger seems, in a way, stifling, already resolved; so, in whose world would marriage be so resolved? the fantasy world of the son).
The son faces, grapples with, what it is to become a man. He confronts, on one side, fantasies of the perfect family which provide unbearable, suffocating, impossible answers to the question of what it is to be a man. He confronts the obscene flipside of these fantasies in violence. Each side is as fantastic as the other--as I make clear in my reading of the film. Whatever symbolic resolution appears in the final scene is, of course, held together by fantasies.
With not much else to go on, K-punk resorts to a conventional flip/reflexivization--the fantasies are 'our' fantasies. Ok. What isn't? That's what makes this sort of move so uninteresting and ultimately impossible: once that turn occurs every fantastic content appears at the same level, one doesn't need to talk about the film at all. The flip dissolves precisely the content it presumes to discuss.
K-punk rightly recognizes that nothing is more ontologically real in A History of Violence than anything else. And, he resists my reading because he falsely claims that I rely on an ontological given that can't be defended in terms of the film. But, what if one recognizes that we are figures in our own fantasies? At this point, it is easy to understand the film as the son's fantastic working through of the challenges of masculinity as it is split between the weak, passive father and obscene superego violence. The film doesn't reassure us with some 'reality' outside precisely because it 'is' (depicts/relates/forms) the fantastic subjectivity of the son; the reassurance of an external gaze is excluded precisely because it would rely on a master signifier the very possibility of which the film challenges.