Canadian director David Cronenberg is defending a controversial violent and naked bathhouse scene in his new film.

Cronenberg's new film "Eastern Promises" screened at the Toronto International Film Festival where the scene has generated much debate.

In the scene, a naked man attempts to fight off two men who have pounced on him in a bathhouse. The director has said the brutal attack is reminiscent of the infamous shower scene in the movie 'Psycho.'

Yet Cronenberg feels the scene is not gratuitous and is absolutely necessary.

"My understanding of violence is that it's totally physical," he told CTV's Canada AM. "It's all about the human body -- the destruction of the human body. So, given those two things, this was a necessary scene and necessary to be shown in the way that I do," Cronenberg said.

Cronenberg's principal actor in the bathhouse scene is Viggo Mortensen, who is best known for his role as Aragorn in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Working with Mortensen represented an opportunity for the director to renew a previous working relationship. The director and actor collaborated on Cronenberg's 2005 movie "A History of Violence."

"It's like a marriage that's ongoing and evolving," Cronenberg said of working with Mortensen again. "I think when you work with someone that you get along with so well and that you now understand in terms of creative energy so well, that you can start at a much higher level."

In "Eastern Promises," Mortensen plays a ruthless Russian mob driver and Naomi Watts plays a Londoner looking to reunite her orphaned baby with its Russian family. It's a film that delves into London's criminal underworld and early critical feedback pegs the film as being as accessible as the Oscar-nominated "A History of Violence." The film ventures into the psychological horror and violence Cronenberg is often associated with bringing to audiences.

"We're in a world in which violence is just business, it's casual," Cronenberg said. "It's not sadistic, it's not vengeful, it's not a religious thing. It's strictly business. You have to kill someone because of a business deal that went wrong or to prove a point."

The world which Cronenberg created for the film came close to reality during the making of "Eastern Promises."

Russian journalist Alex Litvinenko was poisoned to death during the making of the film. A building near where Cronenberg and Mortensen were living at the time was swarmed by forensic police because traces of polonium-210 -- the substance that killed Litvinenko -- were found there.

"Rather than scaring us, it energized us," Cronenberg said. "We felt we are really are on to something that has got a lot of profundity involved."

The director said the events made him reconsider the film. After doing so, he felt the film was also dealing with Russia's efforts to become a capitalist state. Given these weightier themes, Cronenberg obviously feels there is much more to "Eastern Promises" than a notorious nude scene.

"It made us feel suddenly that we were right on the cutting edge of political awareness," Cronenberg said.

With files from The Canadian Press