Eastern Promises explores the Whore archetype where the sins of a society are heaped on the Whore and she is run out of town, or in this case dies of neglect and misery in child-birth.
The Whore or the Victim archetypes has lost connection with herself (suicidal) and is attached to others in a completely powerless way. She is disconnected from a caring community and even a belief in herself. Sensing she is vulnerable evil forces make her the scapegoat.
Before the story opens, Russian Mafia boss in America, Semyon, has a son who is showing signs of being gay (Kiril). Semyon puts Kiril to the test, telling him to rape Tatiana, a 14 year Virgin who has come to America to be a famous singer. Kiril cannot rape her so Semyon proves his superiority by raping Tatiana and discarding her to his brothel. She and her baby are declared slaves to the superior mafia boss with no familial connection.
This is the back story that calls the heroes into action. Anna is a midwife at the hospital and finds a diary of Tatiana’s life. She determines to find family for the baby girl. In the film, Tatiana’s diary and the baby together represent the Virgin in the story. The second hero is the mafia driver who has a core of decency in an ugly, gritty world.
Eastern Promises is a great example of a hero story where the Virgin, which catalyzes the hero’s journey, is well-developed making for a rich story.
It’s a good reminder when writing Virgin stories to take the time to create a rich understanding of the hero who may play a role in beats 3 (opportunity to shine), 5 (Secret World) and/or 12 (The Re-ordering).
This story is very plot driven except when the Virgin is represented (in the form of the baby or the diary). We do not get emotionally close to the other characters. This high contrast gives great impact to the tragedy of the Virgin.
The Russian underworld in America is graphically revealed and made more ominous by the speaking of Russian which we, the audience, struggle to understand, treated as if we are irrelevant in our own culture. This along with the violence (including a fight scene in the steam room that is blazed on my memory forever), create a strong impact as to how dangerous these elements are to the Whore/Virgin and to all of us. The Whore becomes the Virgin when people stand up for her. In the end, this baby girl is the key to bringing down the mafia boss, which makes the Kingdom (America) a brighter place.
This is a really well crafted film where the heroes are not cast in the hollywood mould and are archetypally very strong. Thanks Fran, for bringing this movie to my attention.
Entry filed under: Film Summaries. Tags: Archetypes, David Cronenberg, Eastern Promises, film, film analysis, film structure, film study, Joseph Campbell, Naomi Watts, screenwriting, Steven Knight, Viggo Mortenson, Vogler.