It's been awhile since I've really gotten excited about the opening of a new movie, but the previews for David Cronenburg's Eastern Promises look pretty awesome.
I recall someone saying once (I think in our Russia Today class last semester), that you can pretty much look back in history and see the growing tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States, by who was the lead villian in James Bond films. In the years when relations were particularly tense between the two, more often than not agent 007 would end up fighting someone with a thick Russian/Soviet accent.
It's been a few years now since there's been any decent movies with a Soviet villian (not counting Blues Brothers 2000), but perhaps that time has come again.
Eastern Promises is a fast-paced, thriller which has been dubbed by some as the Russian version of The Godfather (quite a bold claim, considering The Godfather ranks in the top 10 movies of all time according to http://www.rottentomatoes.com/).
The film stars Naomia Watts playing a young midwife, Anna, who unknowingly becomes entangled with one of London’s hardest crime families to which nasty character Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen) is a member of. It is soon discovered that Anna has potential evidence to damage Nikolai’s family, which of course sparks horrific events of murder and deceit, bloody beatings, vodka, intense Russian, and I'm sure plenty of other Hollywood goodness.
Now, I'm not sure how much of the film is true to life. Obviously, I'm quite sure the Russian Mafia wasn't exactly willing to divulge all it's darkest secrets to a screenwriter or director, so much of the film is probably glorified Hollywood rubbish. But to his credit, Viggo Mortensen did try to really get into the role. http://www.starpulse.com/news/index.php/2007/09/14/viggo_mortensen_terrified_family_with_ru
The film has already won Best Film Award at the Toronto film festival, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/movies/2003887746_toronto17.html
and is rating very well on rottentomatoes (no easy feat).
One thing in particular that intrigues me about this film is the tagline - "Every sin leaves a mark". This refers to the use of tattoos among criminals/gangs to record the wearers personal history... Cooooooooooooool....
Now, the next portion of my blog is almost solely researched on Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt. But Wiki usually has some truth to it, and either way it makes for interesting reading.
Apparently Russian criminal tattoos have a very complex system of symbols that give some rather detailed info about the wearer. Not only the symbol itself, but where it is placed on the body has significant meaning to it. For example...
A crucifix worn on the chest signifies the highest possible rank. This has no real religious basis, but says that the wearer has been oppressed by the authorites as Jesus was. A snake on the other hand, around the neck/shoulders means that the wearer feels the Soviet/Communist system still has a hold on them. A setting sun represents freedom.
As well as voluntary, some tattoos are given as punishment, to mark and embarass the wearer. If someone has not paid a debt, or has betrayed someone, they may be marked for it. Wearing unearned tattoos can have serious consequences.
Now here's the gross part.....
"Tattoos done in a Russian prison have a distinct blueish color and usually appear somewhat blurred because of the lack of instruments to draw fine lines. The ink is often created from burning the heel of a shoe and mixing the soot with urine." Yuck. But cool.
So anyway, the movie looks pretty good. Check out the official website here.