|Screenshot from Erotikon, Tora Teje on the right.|
Still, today's amazing epiphany, Erotikon, is all due to David Thomson, the critic and author who made me in to a cinema freak. He wrote about Erotikon in his amazing book, Have You Seen ... ?
But I had forgotten about it until a couple of weeks ago, and waited to find the right opportunity to seek it out and watch it.
Today was that day, home alone, lounging, relaxing, listening to soft breezes, having sandwiches, drinking rose, etc, ...
You can watch Erotikon for free on YouTube, but it is a Swedish silent film with Swedish intertitle cards, and those are actually subtitled in Italian. The film is pretty simple to understand, and you can go that route, but there are a lot of double entendres in the intertitles, so, I suggest you do what I have done and either rent the film digitally on Amazon or plain buy it digitally, to watch on your computer at home.
And, that is right. I said, that Erotikon is a Swedish silent film. From 1920, to boot. I know there are many folks out there who just can not do silent films. And, I understand that. There are a lot of really awful silent films out there, a lot of mugging, and crazy melodramatic claptrap. But there are so many good ones, too. Directors like Ernst Lubitsch, Jean Vigo, Luis Bunuel, Abel Gance, Sergei Eisenstein, FW Murnau, and dozens of others that made absolutely thrilling motion pictures. By the time "talkies" were inevitable most of these masters were so good at telling their stories that they had abandoned intertitles all together.
The director, Mauritz Stiller, is not well known. Well, at least not for directing. He is best known for being the man who discovered Greta Garbo. And he arranged a deal with Louis B Mayer at MGM to be part of a package deal with Garbo. Except Mayer turned Garbo in to the biggest star on the planet, and ignored Stiller, practically shunning him in to a return to Sweden. Stiller died within the year upon his return.
Which is a real shame. Because Erotikon is a flat-out masterpiece of the cinema. Erotikon, made in 1920, is hipper, more sophisticated, and more open about sex, than you, or me, for that matter. Watching scenes unspool, you begin to recognize situations from your own life, being replayed on the screen. It is essentially the story of a vaguely unsatisfied wife, and how dangerously close she will come to ruining a half dozen lives, by shamelessly flirting, and manipulating men to achieve her final goal. But there is no judgement here. She is not a slut. She is not a villain in this picture. There are no villains. She understands the consequences that might occur if she can not finally end up with the man she wants. And she is willing to pay the price, as well, with courage, dignity, and grace. Erotikon is all about the power of flirting (flirt is absolutely one of the prettiest, and finest words in the English language) and seduction. Erotikon is about how passion and love to some are always changeable and moving. This is taken as a matter of fact. Love is a crazy crazy creature that none of us will ever truly understand. It is better to be true to yourself than it is fit in to some correct societal norm that is smothering you.
|Tora Teje in Erotikon.|
And, let me not get away here first without mentioning our star, Tora Teje. Ms Teje is not particularly pretty, though she has her moments. But she radiates a simmering flirtatious radiant sexuality that burns up the screen. It is one of the sexiest performances I have seen from any actor in any film, period. Most of the time in a film, you get one, maybe two, or sometimes even three wildly sexy moments from actors. Ms Teje has over a half dozen in this ten reeler. The body language she uses; the elegant hand gestures; the way she looks at a subject or an actor; the sublime way she elongates her slender frame like a cat; and on and on. She literally makes you fall in love with her all over again at least once in every reel.
So, this is insanely highly recommended.
If you can get over the whole silent film "thing". (My advice is, if you find yourself getting bored, just take the film in pieces. Set aside twenty minutes or half hour or so and munch it up in bites over a few days.)
UPDATE! 7/3/12: Two things I forgot to mention yesterday. First, the intertitle cards in Erotikon are beautiful. Each time a new major character is introduced in the film, we get a card telling us who the character is and who the actor is, playing them. Plus, the cards are lovely, each one with a different little art deco illustration that either comments on the character speaking the line, or the story.
And, second: Ingrid Bergman was five years old, and living in Stockholm, when Erotikon was released. I am certain she must have seen the film, growing up. Being the "broad-minded", "notorious" flirt that she was, I would like to think it was one of her favorite motion pictures.