Thursday, December 27

Homosexual Analysis of Eastern Promises

Instead of doing my usual review of a movie, I have decided to do a critique on the portrayal of same-sex attraction in the movie. I may do a regular review later. Director David Cronenberg doesn't like summing up his movie's plot, so I don't like summarizing it. So I will skip and you can read it somewhere else.

Bascially there is no fully out character but there is Kirill (Vincent Cassel), who sent for a friend to be killed after running around the rumor that he was 'a queer.' His father was a big drama queen about this realization. This is basically Viggo Mortensen's movie. He plays Nikolai, Kirill's driver and right-hand man, dirty work guy. Kirill basically forces Nikolai to have sex with a teenage girl to prove he is not a 'queer.' He then proceeds to watch it. Near the end of the movie, where Kirill is about to kill a baby girl, Nikolai convinces him out of it in an embrace. says: "Here in 'Eastern Promises' the young gangster’s homosexuality (the need to watch his driver engaging in a sex act--the cheek to cheek reconciliations) lacks the humor of the earlier film and is merely sinister--it harkens back to some of the old Bertolucci movies ('The Conformist' or '1900') in which sexual perversity was equated with personal and especially political corruption. It was stale then and it’s stale now."

David Cronenberg of says:
"With his new film, the violent Russian mob drama
Eastern Promises , Cronenberg has once again elected to explore homosexuality, this time in the context of a patriarchal, aggressive crime underworld. In including a deeply closeted gay mobster in his colorful ensemble, Cronenberg is, on the one hand, giving us another in an unfortunately rich cinematic history of gay villains. But the film’s refusal to condemn the character for his sexuality or to associate his sexuality with his criminality is notable, and the sensitivity with which the story is explored is unexpected and refreshing. The film may be brutal, but it is not cruel."

Francis of the blog Lessons from the School of Inattention says:
"In Eastern Promises, Cronenberg is again examining the role of geography in his theme of identity. When Semyon gains knowledge of his son's supposed homosexuality, he blames London as the primary cause for the sudden and alarming shift in gender preference within his family line. Cronenberg is careful not to make Kirill's homosexual tendencies obvious and apparent, instead he conceives Kirill as utterly troubled and divided: supposedly convinced that he is straight, in accordance with the necessity of continuing the familial machismo that is inherited from Russia, but internal and external factors pull him towards the fractured sexuality which Nikolai apparently exploits. Cronenberg never discloses whether the homosexual tension between Nikolai and Kirill become consummated but the atmosphere of ever-changing stances in identity overpowers, especially nearing the end of the film when Kirill finally breaks from his moral and sexual gray area and surrenders to Nikolai's moral and sexual ascendancy over him (as exemplified by the uncomfortably close embrace with Nikolai after deciding to turn over the baby to Anna) in the concrete banks of the Thames River."

I personally did not find the embrace between the two in the end of the movie as uncomfortable. They had close embraces before and seemed comfortable. I did feel that Nikolai was exploiting Kirill a bit to get what he wanted. His actions didn't seem sincere and Viggo does it wonderfully. Nikolai does seem to love and appreciate Kirill. It's like he is okay with him being who he is and may love him but loves Anna (Noami Watts) more. How he kisses Anna after that seems more significant. It is like he is sacrificing himself. She can't be part of his world. Like the director says, they are two trains that pass in the night.

I do agree with some of the points above, about Kirill being trouble and divided, it being good that the movie doesn't condemn the character for his sexuality, and Nikolai's sexual ascendancy. Also, about all this being a bit stale about 'ooohhh he is homosexual!'; covering old hostilities and prejudices and stereotypes within mafia may bit a bit stale and how it is handled, it could have been do a bit more quicker and less 'big issue.' There isn't a lot of information. And the movie is about that, not knowing everything about the characters, but I guess it was necessary.

For more caps of Viggo click here

Updated 1/11/08