Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Unlikely Sources of Inspiration: "Eastern Promises"
It's been a while since I did an Unlikely Sources of (style) Inspiration post. In fact, I think the last one, about "The Orphan" was also my first one. I like finding ideas in costumes from films that aren't thought of as "costume films," especially if the outfits say things about each character that you can't necessarily glean from the dialogue.
Directed by David Cronenberg, "Eastern Promises" is about the Russian mafia in London and is known for its infamous naked knife fight scene, which involves Viggo Mortenson's character, Nikolai, and two other gangsters (though, technically, only Mortenson was naked and the knives were linoleum cutters, but I digress). The plot revolves around Anna (Naomi Watts), a midwife at a large London hospital who becomes obsessed with finding the family of a Russian teenager who died giving birth.
Throughout the course of the movie, we find out that Anna is motivated by several highly emotional experiences, including a miscarriage and the recent death of her Russian-born father. Her uncle Stepan spends a lot of time with Anna and her mom and I loved the family's interactions because they reminded me of the dynamics between the first- and second-generation Taiwanese-Americans in the community I grew up in.
In several scenes, she wears a motorcycle jacket to ride her father's old motorcycle, which he brought over from Russia. The jacket and helmet serve as a sort of armor, while at the same time tying Anna to her late father and, in turn, her Russian heritage. In fact, all of her jackets and overcoats are black and sharply-tailored, which links her visually to the gangsters, including Nikolai, that she becomes increasingly involved with.
The set detail in the movie is also great. Most of "Eastern Promises" takes place in Anna's mother's apartment, which is filled with the kind of knick-knacks you'd expect to see in a multicultural family's apartment (an embroidered wall hanging contrasts with Laura Ashley-ish curtains and a large collection of porcelain cows in the kitchen) or an upscale Russian restaurant that is a front for Nikolai's gang. The restaurant is grand and decorated in dark colors (pine green, dark varnished wood, crimson) that look festive or ominous depending on the scene.
I highly recommend "Eastern Promises," but it's a very violent film, so don't see it if gore freaks you out!