Apparently there wasn´t too much promotion or information in advance. Getting out of a black limousine, the two of them were mainly greeted by a crowd of photographers, while the fans were already seated inside one of the (sold-out) multiplex cinemas. "Who are these people?" an astonished young female festival-goer wonders.
Minutes before, a couple of other more or less prominent actors had already posed for the reporters on the red carpet. Generally, the festival wasn´t really packed with VIPs, as a German daily rightfully laments (taz.).
(I consider myself very lucky to have David Cronenberg sign a Dead Ringers lobby card for me...)
No less then
three little speeches were held - in either English or German ("Herr
Cronenberg") by the chief of the festival himself, a member of the
Hamburg Senate and an editor of DER SPIEGEL, a well-respected German newsmagazine.
seemed relaxed and said a few words himself, remembering that he had been
to Hamburg many years ago - and that it hadn´t changed much (possibly
not a compliment). He was pleased to receive a prize named after Germanborn
Douglas Sirk, although he unlike Sirk neither has worked in Germany nor
To be honest, my expectations for Eastern Promises were quite low. I can´t really relate at all to A History of Violence, not because it´s entirely awful, but because its themes have been dealt with better before, I believe - certainly by David Cronenberg himself.
On paper, Eastern Promises begins, where A History of Violence left off: being a "gangster" film with no fantastic elements, and more an actor- than a story-driven movie with two world colliding.
But in my opinion, Eastern Promises is lightyears ahead of its predecessor in just every possible way. (If you hold A History... in high esteem, in brief, Eastern Promises is a more emotional and personal version.)
The plot centers around a diary written by a young (14years old) Russian girl who dies after giving birth to a baby girl, due to abuse and severe injuries. The midwife (played equally wonderful by Naomi Watts) has family roots in Russia, but she can´t read the foreign language so she encounters the head of the Russian family whose name is mentioned in the diary.
The normal meeting the dangerous / strange is the standard set-up for thrillers (and horror films), but here it is much more elaborate and less black-and-white than in the usual Hollywood fare. One reason for this is, that the focus lies on the Russian criminals who are depicted avoiding clichés.
I know that Cronenberg likes to be regarded as an atheist, so that might be just a metaphor, but the Russian part of "Eastern Promises" always has its echoes in the midwife´s world: in the Western / "Christmas" version of it so to speak - the film is set around the time of Christmas, the little baby girl is called Christine and the dramatic events of dying and giving birth are presented as close or even depending on one another.
There are moments of extreme violence in the film, but it´s the complete opposite of what is usually considered action: played out very slowly and with motivation.
The scene with a nude Viggo Mortensen in a bath being attacked by two gangsters is remarkable: the perfect antithesis to the usual cheap misogynist slasher violence which Cronenberg has gracefully never done - unlike Hitchcock ;)