Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Eastern Promises

I read an article from The New Republic called “The Brutal Charms of EASTERN PROMISES,” and one from Slate called “Eastern Promises : The Metaphysics of David Cronenberg’s violence.” Both reviewed the recently releases film Eastern Promises that starred Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts but focused on different aspects of the movie.

Christopher Orr, author of The New Republic article, mainly raved about Mortensen’s part in the film. He is obviously a big Viggo fan because he began the article with one of Mortensen’s lines and then goes on to talk about the development of his character and his overall performance. He uses phrases like “ those cheekbones could have been cut by a jeweler” and demonstrates the importance of Mortensen’s character in every part of the movie. Orr says that though Watts is the main character, “on a gut level this is Mortensen’s movie.” Orr concludes by saying that the film is slightly lacking in meaningful tension or originality and that, while Mortensen’s performance was exceptional, the “ultragraphic violence” it contained didn’t help in the end.

In contrast, the Slate article written by Dana Stevens, focused more on the plot line and the meaning behind the violence of Eastern Promises. Stevens acknowledges that the film is enjoyable to watch but agrees with Orr that it is not an exceptional film. Steven’s approach to the article was deeper than Orr’s, she looked for what Cronenberg was trying to say in the violent scenes and over-all dark feel. Stevens explains that Cronenberg can be distinguished from others in his genre because his violence is not senseless but exhibits a healthy respect for the body. She shows her dislike of many recent violent films by describing them as having “Blam-pow jokiness.” Her deeper approach to the movie can also be seen in her idea that Cronenberg uses much of the violence in his films to show the social uses of violence. Stevens is also a Mortensen fan as we can see when she gushes about him at the end of her article. She calls his performance amazing goes on to say that you haven’t lived unless you’ve seen Viggo in the climactic fight scene where he is nude.

Over all, I think that Stevens used more descriptive language and more clearly described the movie than Orr did. Stevens paints a more detailed picture of the movie with his impressive vocabulary. By using words like naïve and idealistic to describe Watts character and saying that Mortensen looked like a Caravaggio martyr in a particular scene, Stevens made me recognize the feel of the movie and characters without actually seeing it. Orr’s review, while certainly interesting, did not measure up to Stevens in vocabulary or focus. I would have liked to hear more about the actual movie before talking about Mortensen’s part because I was kind of lost.

Without having seen the movie, and not planning to ever see it, I can’t really agree or disagree with these authors. However, I do think that I can talk about Steven’s views on violence in movies. I agree with her that much of the violence in movies is for effect and has no real meaning. I don’t like watching violent movies because they of course gross me out but also I think its kind of wrong to fill our minds with such violent images if their only purpose is to entertain us. I would have to say, though, that if Cronenberg’s work actually focuses on deeper meanings in its violence I would not be opposed to watching it, even though I know I would hate it.

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