Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Erotikon A Daring Fable of Modern Love|
Actors: Anders de Wahl, Tora Teje, Karin Molander, Elin Lagergren, Lars Hanson
Director: Mauritz Stiller
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Strikingly modern, moralizing-free sex comedy-drama
Michael Gebert | Chicago, IL USA | 05/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A professor has a bit of an infatuation with his niece; the professor's wife, a cosmopolitan lady of leisure, takes up with a flashy aviator, mainly, it seems, to torment a sculptor who loves her; turn up the heat, stir, and wait for the boil...
The DVD release's jacket does a mild disservice to Mauritz Stiller's Erotikon (1920) by stating that its slyly sardonic approach to sexual intrigue inspired Ernst Lubitsch. The expectation is thus set that Erotikon will have an effervescent comic pace and a constantly winking eye like a Lubitsch film of the 30s-- and that is not the case.
A better touchstone for the film is The Rules of the Game (not least because an aviator plays so prominent a role), a movie which observes, with the sad empathy of a veteran priest with many Saturdays spent listening to confession behind him, the desperate efforts of a group of humans to chase after happiness-- only to make things worse in most cases. Erotikon begins with a fussy middle-aged professor lecturing on bigamous beetles (oddly anticipating the recent movie biography of Dr. Kinsey), and takes a consciously scientific detachment toward its characters as they scurry about, trying to keep mortality at bay by finding some form of erotic excitement in lives which are a bit too settled, under-occupied and, it appears, sexually frustrated. A comedy, yes, and even one that wraps up in high spirits, and yet a comedy that's touched throughout by melancholy, and played with a sort of gravity and a deliberate pace that gives us time to feel the hurt under the surface.
Or so it seemed to me when I watched it tonight. Then I watched the "intro" by the film scholar Peter Cowie, and learned that Erotikon is quite the opposite. Unlike Smiles of a Summer Night, another obvious comparison, Erotikon's comedy does not have a moralistic melancholy undertone, says Cowie. What struck me as gravity, like Preston Sturges slowed down to Douglas Sirk if not Carl Dreyer, strikes Cowie as "frothy."
How to account for the fact that Cowie sees a completely different Erotikon than I do? Well, for one thing, I suppose he has far more experience of Scandinavian cinema on which to build his preconceptions; next to a diet of Sjostrom, Bergman, Strindberg and Hamsun, Erotikon IS frothy, I'm sure. And I doubt he had seen it, the first few times at least, with the particular score on this DVD, a Celtic dirge that seems to belong to a production of "The Death of Cuchulain" more than it does to a 1920s drawing room comedy; it certainly puts the film in a dourer key than a conventional romantic comedy score would have. (Maybe I'll try watching it again with something peppier, and see if it's a different movie.)
Adding to the uncertainty of tone is the fact that the film contains a wide variety of acting styles. Tora Teje (as the socialite wife) and Lars Hanson (as the sculptor) are highly effective in a theatrical, heightened-naturalism sort of way, while Anders de Wahl as the husband and especially Torsten Hammaren as an aged professor are caricatures of woolly-headed academia. It's a bit like Deborah Kerr in Bonjour Tristesse being married to Fred MacMurray in The Absent-Minded Professor.
Despite this mismatch-- perhaps to be expected in such a trailblazing comedy with no apparent models to follow, other than its stage original-- Erotikon is a striking and interesting film, one of the few silents that seems to leap out of the period, untouched by the customary moralizing Victorian preconceptions of what is proper behavior for its characters (and proper punishment for those who violate it). Erotikon simply observes what these creatures do naturally; applying morals to them would be self-delusion, and Erotikon is a movie largely free of illusions."
Film 10 -- Score 3
Randy Buck | Brooklyn, NY USA | 06/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"EROTIKON's interesting enough to appeal, not just to specialists in silent cinema, but literate and curious film buffs of all stripes. Fascinating cast, nicely restored print, with witty title cards complementing piquant situations. My one caveat -- and it's a big one -- is the score accompanying this Kino release. Have these composers ever seen a comedy? Heard Rota, Rossini, Mozart, Strauss? While not uninteresting musically, the soundtrack seems to have strayed in from another, far darker picture. There's been a plague of this lugubrious problem accompanying silent restorations on DVD recently; on the other hand, the Lon Chaney package produced by TCM features a couple of newly-commissioned scores that are exemplary in their approach, with imaginative orchestrations that reinforce, rather than do battle with, the action onscreen. Would that more composers followed their lead!"
Smooth, stylish and sophisticated
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 06/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sweden has long been regarded as being a progressive, sophisticated nation with open-minded people, and these three latest releases by Kino Video featuring Swedish silent films directed by Mauritz Stiller (best remembered for `discovering' Greta Garbo) show that the Swedes had style and sophistication already in the late 1910s. Stiller directed a variety of films from epics (The Saga of Gosta Berling) to historic dramas (Sir Arne's Treasure) and this one, labelled as a daring comedy for 1920. The `daring' element is the bored high society wife who flirts with not one, but two men until she gets the one she wants. The humorous element seems to be that her husband is glad to be rid of her because he has another love interest as well. In fact, I hesitate to call "Erotikon" a comedy per se but rather a light tongue in cheek melodrama. There is nothing much more to the plot, and at times it might even feel quite shallow and slow-moving, but good acting, some interesting characters and an overall smooth style with good photography make up for what the story might be lacking. But to appreciate "Erotikon" more fully, one has to keep it in the context of its time, and compared to other films of 1920, it does stand out for its more developed scenes and the overall smoothness and style, not to mention the theme itself: women of 1920 unashamedly indulging in their heart's desire. Actress Tora Teje plays the main role superbly, I might add, and supporting roles are also well done. Other filmmakers and directors were inspired by Mauritz Stiller's style, and one that quickly comes to mind is Ernst Lubitsch, and his 1924 film "The Marriage Circle" could well have been directly inspired by "Erotikon". To add to the distinct Swedish style of silent film, "Erotikon" has a somewhat unusual and non-traditional orchestral musical score which might take a little getting used to for some. There is also a nice little bonus feature introducing the films of Mauritz Stiller, which serves as a good introduction to Swedish silent films. While not my favourite Swedish or Mauritz Stiller film, "Erotikon" has many fine features which might appeal especially to fans of Ernst Lubitsch's style and similar, as well as simply giving us a good taste of early Swedish cinema.
Nice picture, hated the score
Eric Stott | Albany, NY USA | 06/23/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Nice entertaining film, the DVD image looks beautiful. The string ensemble score seems to drone on continuously in unchanging dreariness. Turn the sound down and put something else in your player."