I expected with anticipation the new film of Cronenberg. After watching its trailer some months ago I imagined that Eastern Promises would be an exceptionally good film. I though that it would successfully combine high aesthetic with dark materials and the usual audacity of the director. Besides that I have to admit that I have a soft spot for both Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts. However, when you go to watch a film with high expectations experience has proven that you always get disappointed.
A young girl arrives at the hospital during the shift of Naomi Watts. She is in labor and dies given birth to a baby girl. The nurse Watts finds the mother’s diary written in
Eastern Promises seems a very mainstream film. Both main actors manage to create two characteristic individuals. The whole story is very ordinary and very non Cronenberg. This film could have been made by another director. Its’ aesthetics are very well thought. Only an accomplished director would be able to achieve the great pictures and the dark and cruel atmosphere that envelops the whole film. Still it lacks all the extremity and audacity of images and ideas that we are used to get form Cronenberg. No atrocities, no sexual pervasions, no provoking of our tolerance. There is only one scene that reminds us the extreme gore that Cronenberg used to implement in his films. In the hot baths two men attack to kill Viggo. He is naked and vulnerable but still manages to win this brutal battle. The violence of this scene is extreme. At the same time the scene is much eroticized since the actor is completely naked. Violence and eroticism is a strange combination that spectator might find both appalling and strangely attractive. This mix though is something that Cronenberg would find interesting and choose to do in one of his films.
Only some hints on the second level of the film prove that Cronenberg has remained consistent and true to his usual obsessions and ideas. Tattoo is the first motif that the spectator can recognize as Cronenbergian. The members of the
Cronenberg seems to declare that our body does not form our identity. Nor does our past (A History of Violence) neither does our family. Identity is not something given, he says. It is a personal choice and it can be changed. Of course there is an issue here. In the last scene Viggo has taken the place of the leader of the mafia. He sits at the same table where he used to sit sipping down his drink in exactly the same posture as the previous leader. If personal identity is so flexible and has nothing to do with our physical presence, past or family, how easy is it to loose your identity and without realizing to become someone else, someone you didn’t even like in the first place?
For another time I am forced to make compensations. Eastern Promises might not be the raw shocking fresh and weird material that Cronenberg used to produce in the first decades of his career but it still is a good –even if not great film- that remains within the sphere of the ideas and philosophical questions of its’ creator. Cronenberg gets older and he might get softer but as Truffaut would say the worst film of an auteur is always better than the best film of a simple mainstream director. In other words even if I am not totally satisfied by Eastern Promises (or Lynch’s