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'Eastern Promises' : fall sneaks

Bloodlines of David Cronenberg

September 09, 2007|Susan King

According to David Cronenberg, each movie dictates how much violence it needs to depict. His movies, it seems, are quite the dictators. Over the decades, the 64-year-old Toronto-based filmmaker has stretched the R rating to its maximum with such horror fests as "Rabid," "Shivers," "Scanners," "Videodrome" and "The Fly."

"When I did 'The Dead Zone,' people were saying the violence is more restrained; 'It's not like his horror films,' " Cronenberg relates. "The next movie I did was 'The Fly,' and it was very violent because that was the movie.

"It's the same thing as finding the level of acting. . . . The movie finds a tone and everything has to work within in."

The violence gets intense in "Eastern Promises," which opens Friday. Penned by Steven Knight of "Dirty Pretty Things," the contemporary tale revolves around the Russian mob in London. Viggo Mortensen, who starred in Cronenberg's compelling "A History of Violence," plays a taciturn chauffeur for a Russian mafia family. Naomi Watts is a hospital midwife of Russian heritage who discovers a prostitution ring run by the family when she goes searching for the identity of a Russian teenager who dies in childbirth.

Though the blood flows freely in the film, Cronenberg points out that there are only three scenes of violence. "But people come out feeling it is much more violent than 'The Departed,' which has a higher body count," he says.

"Violence is no different, really, from lighting in a real way," he says. "How stylized is it? How realistic is it? How extreme is it? To me it's just one more element that has to work with the other elements."

-- Susan King

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