Jan 03, 2008|
Loves: “A History of Violence,” the warped mind of David Cronenberg
Hates: Pandering to mainstream audiences
What has happened to David Cronenberg? The one-time horror filmmaker has escaped his artistic ghetto, slithered his way into the mainstream, and lost little of his distorted sensibilities along the way.
A young pregnant woman staggers into a London pharmacy, blood streaking from between her legs. She dies at the hospital, leaving no trace of her existence save for her child and a small diary written in Russian. A midwife (Watts) takes it upon herself to find the child’s family, translating the diary and getting caught up with Nikolai (Mortensen), part of the devious underworld of the Russian mob.
What could easily have been a cliché of thick Russian accents and heavy-handed Hallmark moments succeeds in the hands of one of the world’s most underappreciated directors. Cronenberg takes an otherwise tepid script and creates a complementary counterpart to “A History of Violence.” He explores the same theme from a different perspective: the subculture of a criminal underworld hiding in plain sight, the shocking act of violence that leads to catharsis. The fact that his previous picture and “Eastern Promises” are penned by different screenwriters is a testament to Cronenberg’s ability to tease his auteur aesthetics out of two seemingly unrelated works.
Admittedly, what the film builds in a gripping eighty-minutes is somewhat disturbed by a rulebook cliché and an Hollywood-appeasing ending. But one can’t help but feel that’s classic Cronenberg: sending his now-mainstream audience through a shockfest of cold intellect and primal fear, before grounding them with a satisfied mind as they walk out the door.