This silent film, apparently one of the few Czech silent films available at all, is not to be confused with the Mauritz Stiller film from 1920, also titled Erotikon. It was great viewing for a Saturday night, and a bowl of ice cream eaten slowly - but best watched in the dark, especially for the opening scene - to bring out the eerie visuals, and unsettling imagery, and to highlight the crisply beautiful photography - a silhouette hurrying through the fog, hurrying through the pouring rain, hurrying through the night - a train arriving - a barking dog that mistrusts this man - if only the old man had been as cautious.
The protagonist, an attractive man with penetrating eyes, is taken in for the night by a man who lives by the train station. He seduces the old man's beautiful daughter and leaves the next morning to his next conquest. The women suffers a lot of tragedy behind him, culminating in a pitiful scene where, after being stripped of all her money and her earrings, to pay for the bed and board of a house where she gave birth to a stillborn - she is almost raped on the way home by a drunken bum, alone at night, in winter, the poor thing. Meanwhile the callous man is living it up with another man's wife in the big city. Needless to say the shoe will be on the other foot.
It's basically a mainstream melodrama with some brilliant, gorgeous avant-garde touches here and there. There's a lot that raises this above something like Flesh and the Devil, thanks to the fact that Machatý is clearly a visual poet who cares about art, as well as pleasing the mainstream. For instance, when the man is seducing Andrea, the name of our victim girl, in the scenes of building sexual tension, it is raining heavily outside. After they have sex, Machatý cuts to a shot of a single water drop running down the window pane - the rain has stopped. It's an extraordinary visualization of aftermath, and disappointment, and fleeting youth.
Another touch is that Machatý photographs trains hectically, wildly, frantically, hand-held. It's like he wants to go back to a simpler time, as if the faster society that was introduced by trains shortens attention spans and minimalizes love, and makes it easy for young men to have flings and completely forget about them. Like how some view the internet now.
Machatý films attraction beautifully. He goes wild with the details - glances, glances and little gestures galore, the language between two people that nobody else sees or hears.
There's some thematic and visual similarities to Epstein's The Three Sided Mirror. There's lots of uncomfortable attention to detail in the love-triangle flirting scenes, and some very inventive camera-work, and a SPECTACULAR death scene, and a sublime, serene, perfect ending. So that is what raises it above your average melodrama.
Despite the suggestive sounding title - which is the name of a (fictional?) brand of Czech perfume featured in the film - there's very little stimulation going on in this one. However there was a certain amount of controversy because there is indeed a sex scene of sorts going on at the beginning, although obviously it's not very explicit. We get some shots of Andrea's face and she appears to be enjoying herself a great deal. That angered some people at the time.
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