“My marriage was a mistake.”
A sexually neglected newlywed (Hedy Lamarr) finds love and passion in the arms of a handsome young foreman (Aribert Mog).
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “once banned picture” — refused importation into the United States until 1940, and publicly denounced by Pope Pius XII — is a “surprisingly impressive work considering that its reputation is based solely on its trouble with censors and [19-year-old Hedy] Lamarr’s nudity.” While its controversial scenes — naked Lamarr swimming and dashing through the forest after her runaway horse; a close-up of Lamarr’s face in “ecstasy” with her handsome new lover — are indeed somewhat “startling” for a film made in the early 1930s, Peary accurately notes that the film remains “an extremely bold, erotic exploration of a woman’s need for sexual fufillment”. Shot much like a silent picture (with limited dialogue), Ecstasy is a visual treat throughout, with effectively dreamy cinematography and many memorable images (see stills below). Unfortunately, the final half hour of the film — in which director Gustav Machaty has Lamarr pay for the sin of “yielding to her sexual desire and seeking out a man for sex” — starts to drag, and an ending montage sequence of industrious workers (which seems to belong to another Soviet-era propaganda movie entirely) is a truly “bizarre” capstone to what’s come before. Despite its disappointing ending, however, Ecstasy remains worthy viewing, not just for its controversy (which makes it an automatic must for all film fanatics) but for its sensuous depiction of young lovers finding short-lived happiness in each others’ arms.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- An effective tale of sensual awakening
- Striking cinematography and creative direction
Yes, as a controversial film with cinematic significance.