Sunday, September 23, 2007
I love David Cronenberg's films generally, but even though I liked A History of Violence pretty well I haven't been really excited by either of his films since eXistenZ (one of the only movies, incidentally, for which I will indulge the ridiculous use of capitalizations and/or punctuation and/or abbreviation).
Eastern Promises, though it's another crime drama with few obvious references to Cronenberg's signature themes of the sexualiation and violence of technology upon the body, seems to me like one of his very best. It's hard to describe the movie in terms of plot or story, because in some ways not a whole lot happens. Most of it seems like a cautionary tale for midwives. The lesson being that if a 14-year old Ukrainian immigrant dies in childbirth and leaves behind a diary detailing her life as a forced prostitute it is best to be careful who you tell, and in particular not the Russian mobsters her diary leads you to.
For most of the movie, though, this is incidental and Viggo Mortenson's relationship to the crime family as their driver is the center of what's going on. By the very end, though, you realize that Naomi Watts's midwife has done something much more significant than it first seemed.
Last night Kurt mentioned a Fresh Air interview of a few weeks ago in which Cronenberg was talking to Terri Gros about making blood look just right in his movies. He (Cronenberg) said human blood actually changes color the longer it's outside the body (as it spends more time exposed to oxygen). On the one hand, it's very morbid that the man has researched this.
On the other, though, it makes me love him more. That kind of curiosity, that attention to detail and precision, is indicative to me of how unusually thoughtful a filmmaker he is. (This means he is also, apparently, the kind of guy who sees people get their throats slit in other movies and thinks, that could really be much more graphically realistic.) There were a lot of moments during Eastern Promises (some violent, some not) that reminded me of Kurt's story. It's a nice feeling when one of your favorite filmmakers puts you in a state of awe.