Classic Movie Review: A groundbreaking sex scene and innovative imagery lift Gustav Machatý's largely forgotten silent melodrama

Director: Gustav Machatý

Writer: Gustav Machatý

Starring: Ita Rina, Olaf Fjord

A rural railway stationmaster's virginal but obviously curious daughter is sexually initiated by a lothario stranded at the depot by a fierce storm. Their love scene contains no nudity; you barely know the guy is there. But the sequence pulses with erotic energy, with its close-ups of the girl's gasping, glowing face, shaky point-of-view shots of her bedroom walls and, finally, the image of two drops of water sliding down her windowpane, merging into one.

This, mind you, in a silent film released in 1929. Erotikon's plot is melodramatically standard: Left pregnant, Andrea (played beautifully by Slovene actress Ita Rina) marries another man and moves to Prague, only to encounter her former lover and recover her former lust. But the film's expressionistic imagery and nonjudgmental approach to sexual desire (especially female sexual desire) lent it an avant-garde tinge. (Surrealist writer Vítězslav Nezval had an uncredited hand in the screenplay.) Largely forgotten amid the international sensation Machatý's taboo-busting Extase wrought three years later and thought lost for decades, Erotikon stamps its maker as the first real artist to emerge from the Czech cinema. Not an easy film to find, but very much worth seeing if you get a chance.

Year: 1929

Runtime: 1 hour, 25 minutes

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