English Title: Ecstasy
Original Title: Ekstase
Country: Czechoslovakia, Austria
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Gustav Machatý
Jacques A. Koerpel
Music: Giuseppe Becce
This early talkie notoriously brings a then 19-year-old Hedy Lamrr to the world cinema through its madcap depiction of female nudity and sex liberation, way head of time, directed by Czechoslovakian director Gustav Machtý, ECSTASY won BEST DIRECTOR in Venice in 1934. But it was not released in the United States until 1940.
Eve (Lamarr), a young bride marries a much older man Emile (Rogoz), who possesses an orderly manner but doesn’t care to consummate their marriage on their wedding night, the film literally opens with Emile fumbling around with different keys, but cannot open the lock on the front door. Disappointed by the marriage, Eve returns to stay with her father (Kramer) and a divorce is issued by her, it is bracing to notice that this is the case where a woman is empowered to initiate the controversial step, and all the more, because of sexual dissatisfaction, a taboo too personal and embarrassing to admit, yet is pandemic in most marriages. Even in today’s cinema, it is rarely given such a visible platform to manifest.
But, wait and see, there is something even more forward-looking in the picture, Eve, goes bare to swimming in a brook and leaves all her clothing on the horseback, her topless shots are quite a profanity then, and a chance meeting with a young foreman Adam (Mog, a strapping German actor who would meet his death in the battlefield of WWII) ignites her sexual impulse, although she is ashamed to be discovered naked by him and fends off his help at the first place. The same night, Eve, again, makes the first move to find Adam, together she finally achieves her orgasm, satisfactorily. No woman should be condemned for doing that, not ever!
Later, by chance, Adam hitchhikes with Emile, who has been rebuffed by Eve for his endeavour of reconciliation. After realises Adam is his unwitting rival, Emile drives in full throttle with the thought of perishing together, the white-knuckle experience comes to a halt in front of a running train, he is not a maniac, only despondent, or maybe more than that, like a fly trapped in the room, cannot run away from the sticky pad luring to the ultimate demise. One soul’s departure effects many others, Eve, never hesitate to be a decision-maker, only leaves the discombobulated Adam to memorise her in his widest imagination.
The version I watched is post-dubbed in German, although, at the dawning of talkie era, the dialogue is scarce and awfully basic, it could have been better produced as a silent thanks to Machatý’s expressionistic expertise and symbolic touches. Lamarr is such an emotive performer in front the camera, and deceptively mature in flaring up her repressed sexuality, stunning, brave and uncompromising.
Apart from being an innovation of its time regarding the thematic bravura, ECSTASY doesn’t benefit from its bumpy narrative pace and grating sound effect, the film is in need of a pressing restoration to reinstate its grandeur, even it is solely for the sake of the dazzling Austrian beauty, Mrs. Lamarr.