A once banned Czechoslovak film EXTASE (1933) represents 1930s at SSEES 100 Film Festival

On Tuesday 20th of October the SSEES Centenary Film Festival will show a once banned Czechoslovak film EXTASE (Ecstasy, 1933) by Gustav Machatý.

EXTASE is a film about a young woman named Eva (played by Hedy Lamarr), who marries a wealthy but much older man. After abandoning her brief passionless marriage, she meets a young engineer who becomes her lover.

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EXTASE was highly controversial in its time because of scenes in which Lamarr swims and runs through the countryside nude. It is also perhaps the first non-pornographic movie to portray sexual intercourse and female orgasm, although never showing more than the actors’ faces.

imagesIn the mid-1930s, Ecstasy was a great conversation piece, for its scandalous acknowledgment of sexual passion in women and its revelation of the naked form of actress Hedy Kiesler, who would become the Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr. Henry Miller even wrote an excited essay about it, sure proof that something libidinous was loose. Czech director Gustav Machatý constructs the movie as an almost wordless shadow play of symbols and signs, mostly sexual (there are many close-ups of heavy-breathing horses and nude statues, cut together for maximum erotic impact). As precious as some of these things seem now, it’s still amazing to consider Machatý’s nerve in depicting one of the first orgasms to hit the movies”, – describes the film Robert Horton.

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The world premiere of the film took place on 20 January 1933 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. In Austria, the film was released on 14 February, but due to censorship problems, German cinemas did not show it until 8 January 1935. EXTASE was not released in the United States until 24 December 1940. It went on to limited run in America without the Hays seal, where it played in mostly independent art houses.

Lamarr’s first husband, the wealthy arms dealer Friedrich Mandl, reportedly spent $280,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to suppress the film by purchasing every existing print.

The screening will take place at Bloomsbury TheatreOctober 20, 18.30.

Book your tickets here.

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