Monday, February 04, 2008

Viggo Viggo Viggo Viggo Viggo

Today I was trying to come up with a Monday Monologue and I thought of Eastern Promises and the ritual induction/tatoo scene. Surely I did this because I had already noted my inability to stop talking-thinking-dreaming about Viggo Mortensen.

"ViggoViggoViggoViggoViggo"'s not so much a deep rumbling chant as a whisper on loop in my brain. My favorite scene in the movie is not the infamous bathhouse scene, but the one that precedes it, when Nikolai is inducted into 'the family'

Watching the scene again I realized that OF COURSE it's not a monologue at all. It's an interview or, rather, an audition.
The Family: We can see that you were in prison in Siberia. And that you were a thief.
Nikolai: My father was a government worker. He fixed the cars of officials. I began by selling the spare parts when I was fifteen.
The Family: You have no forced tattoos?
Nikolai: None.
The Family: You were not cooperative?
Nikolai: I spent two years in the punishment block.
The Family: You went through the Crosses in St. Petersburg?
Nikolai: I was in solitary confinement a dozen times. I was called 'The Stump' because they couldn't shift me.
The Family: Your father was a bitch and weak fucker for working for the Government. Right?
Nikolai: That's right. He means nothing to me. My mother...
The Family: You have no mother. She was a whore anyway.
Yes. I have no mother and no father. There is only the code, the vory v zakone code ...which I have always followed.
The Family: That is why there is an empty space above your heart where the stars will go. And an empty space on your knees.
Nikolai: I am dead already. I died when I was fifteen. Now I live in the zone all the time.

My obsession had drowned out the other voices in the scene.
There was only the Viggo... the Viggo Mortensen code.

For all his probable truth telling in this scene, there is so much that's submerged that it's entirely riveting. And probably harrowing were we able to penetrate Nikolai's tough shell. I think of Christian Bale's American Psycho monologue when I see this, too. Nikolai isn't the sociopath that Patrick Bateman is, but he's also possibly not there... an idea rather than a true man.

And Nikolai is not a monologuist. He's closer to a parrot. In this great scene he is essentially repeating... giving them exactly what they want to hear. And even at film's end he is still submerged. He is the man whoever he is with needs him to be. Check the way he doubles redemptive embraces: his goodbye kiss to Anna is mirrored by his homoerotic coaxing of Kirill. These moments are mere seconds apart.

Nikolai may have his own agenda but it's all he has for the shapeshifting. Kirill has feelings for Nikolai no doubt. Maybe Nikolai feels for Anna... or maybe he loves the idea of loving her (there really isn't much context for romance in this movie) since there is no man there to do so. Nikolai is a consummate empty vessel. He's already dead. He died when he was fifteen.


Maybe it's out of my system now. This isn't The Viggo Experience after all. But just to make sure I've expelled it from my system, let's just let it out.

Viggo Viggo Viggo

Viggo Viggo Viggo Viggo

Viggo Viggo Viggo Viggo

Viggo Viggo Viggo Viggo Viggo

There. I'm done. ...or am I ?


Anonymous said...

If Nikolai and Kirill had made out in this, I think I would have exploded................. ;)

gabrieloak said...

I'm afraid it's hard not to obsess over Viggo after you've seen him in certain roles. I think I first became aware of Viggo's power after A Walk on the Moon. And then in LOTR he cast another magic spell. He's just as charismatic in person. I was right next to him after a screening of Alatriste in Toronto in 2006 and I became too tongue tied to say anything to him. Or too shy to say what I might want to say to him. I think most of his fans feel that way, no?

gabrieloak said...

Has anyone seen Viggo in The Indian Runner or Amerian Yakuza? I was wondering if I should rent these?

Anonymous said...

viggo viggo viggo viggo viggo

(Nathaniel, that will NEVER get old....)

Anonymous said...

i don't get the viggo love at all i come here everyday and do not get it or the love for this sleepwalking perormance,nikolai is dead hell i though viggo was dead in some scenes he made naomi watts look animated,i still cannot get over the fact he beat mcavoy and riley to best actor nods.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

daveylow The Indian Runner is a great film and it was my favorite Viggo performance until Eastern promises


mr ripley. not sure what you're looking for in terms of an explanation. i did my little blurb on my best actor page. I wrote this. there's always my full review...

i can't think of other ways to explain it but i think it's a top notch auteur-serving performance and, like a history of violence, in which he was also great there's all sorts of submerged identity issues... that he's both sharing with the audience and not sharing. I dig Viggo's work.

mcavoy and riley were both very good in their films (in my top 10 obviously) but Viggo tops them in my mind. plus: McAvoy just doesn't have as much to work with as most of the best actor candidates since he's not truly the central character. little briony ruins everything ;)

Franklin said...

All I can say is, thank you. Thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

i just saw into the wild one question whilst we are talking about male beauty was emile's hairy chest real or fake to give him age.

lola aronovich said...

Viggo is so great in this film. I'd love him to win Best Actor.
Having said that, did you notice, Nathaniel, that British director Michael Sarne is one of the mafia people interviewing Viggo in this scene? I just saw Myra Breckinridge. That was a good coincidence.
I'm from Brazil, living in the US for one year, and a movie critic myself. We have a lot in common! For instance, I'm always obsessive about how the poor horses suffer in western and war films. And then I found out that we were born on the same day: June 6 (right?)! Now, I never believed in astrology, but that was a stiking coincidence. Congratulations for your blog.
For the Brazilian readers of this blog and for people who read Portuguese, visit my blog:

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