Ecstasy (1932)

Newlyweds Eva (Hedy Lamarr) and Emile (Zvonimir Rogoz) return to their bourgeois apartment on their wedding night. Yet, instead of passion, pornography, or romance, Czech film director Gustav Machatý gives us a scene of nearly comic domestic ennui. […]. Eva is beseeching, Emile disinterested, and the spectator is led to sympathize with the neglected bride. She is played by Hedy Lamarr, later known as Hollywood’s most beautiful woman. […] And indeed, Machaty’s 1932 Ecstasy quickly leaves Emile in the dust to focus on [Eva]. Eva is dissatisfied, and, according to her wishes, the union rapidly ends in divorce.

Machatý focuses on Eva’s exercise of agency. Eva is the prosecuting party in the divorce […]. Similarly, Eva chooses to visit [her lover] Adam’s cabin, unannounced. Finally, Eva decides to leave Adam […]. In each instance, Eva is the actor who decides when a relationship begins or ends, often to the chagrin of her father, husband, or lover.

In terms of style, the lack of dialogue is […] striking. The scene of Eva and Emile’s wedding night and those of their life together are only accompanied by music, and the actors’ few interactions with one another are efficiently expressed by gestures and gazes. Similarly, none of Adam and Eva’s encounters include dialogue. […] If society dictates that men have the last word, Eva chooses to act – not speak.

Patricia Bass, East European Film Bulletin

  • Orig. title: Extase
  • Language: Czech
  • Subtitles: English
  • Distribution: Thomas Sessler Verlag
  • Cinematography: Jan Stallich
  • Editing: Antonín Zelenka

Collaboration