Extase (Ecstasy, 1933)

We’re starting to get back to having cinematic releases here in the UK which are separate from VOD online ones, though quite often they’re still released in both cinemas and online. One new release this coming Friday will be The Painted Bird, a Czech/Slovak film about World War II, and by all accounts a rather grim one at that. I haven’t seen it, and I am not entirely convinced I will go, but I am certainly intrigued. Therefore, this week! A week of Czech and Czechoslovak films, starting with this classic from 1933.

It seems somewhat unfair that this film is mainly known for its place in the history of sex/nudity in films, because it’s actually a very sensitively-made and beautifully-shot drama about a woman (the incomparable Hedy Lamarr) who is unhappy in her marriage. All of this is set up wordlessly, and although it’s not technically a silent film, there are only brief dialogue scenes and it is certainly very pleasingly parsimonious with its verbiage. We are introduced to her on her wedding day being carried across the threshold of their home by her husband (Zvonimir Rogoz), who is soon seen neatly arranging his items on the bedside table, and whose only apparent happiness is taking his shoes off. Little vignettes suggest her life with him, and there’s a recurring motif of insects being crushed (by him) or cared for (by the new love in her life, a manual labourer with fetching hair, played by Aribert Mog). As the central character, Hedy Lamarr is excellent (and yes, beautiful), and the cinematography closes in on little details to convey the emotions, as well as some nice use of double-exposure. This is top romantic melodrama, done well.

Ecstasy film posterCREDITS
Director Gustav Machatý; Writers František Horký, Machatý, Vítězslav Nezval and Jacques A. Koerpel (based on the story by Robert Horký); Cinematographers Hans Androschin and Jan Stallich; Starring Hedy Lamarr, Aribert Mog, Zvonimir Rogoz; Length 89 minutes.
Seen at home (DVD), London, Sunday 25 September 2016.


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