Eva has just gotten married to an older gentleman, but discovers that he is obsessed with order in his life and doesn't have much room for passion. She becomes despondent and leaves him, ...
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Eva has just gotten married to an older gentleman, but discovers that he is obsessed with order in his life and doesn't have much room for passion. She becomes despondent and leaves him, returning to her father's house. One day while bathing in the lake she meets a young man and they fall in love. The husband has become grief stricken at the loss of his young bride, and fate brings him together with the young lover that has taken Eva from him. Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
(No need to recap the plot, since others have done so already.)
It's understandable that many viewers find fault with the film, raised as we are with the slam-bang sensurround of today's cineplex experience. Against that background, a movie like Ecstasy appears to have wandered in from another planet. I think there are several worthwhile reasons why.
Most importantly, the film unfolds poetically, as the camera pans slowly over surrounding hills, trees, clouds, etc., providing a serene and lyrical sense of a natural world that integrates the man and woman into its fold. Together these reveal a style and dimension almost totally missing from today's technology-driven cinema, where rapid-fire editing works to divert audience attention and not to concentrate it. Additionally, the story is conveyed by eye and not by ear, with almost no dialogue to explain what's happening. This amounts to another extreme departure from today's very literal fare, where visuals only seem to count when they excite the audience. But perhaps most unsettling-- the movie is sometimes eerily quiet, not in the sense that silent films are quiet since we expect them to be. But in the sense that the characters seldom speak when we expect them to. Thus, the burden of the story is shared between the film-maker and the viewer. The former must choose his visuals artfully so as to convey the narrative, while the latter must think about those visuals, since they're not going to be explained.
None of this is intended to belittle today's film-making. It's simply to point out that a movie like Machaty's comes out of a very different aesthetic from the one we have today. I don't claim either to be any better or worse. However, I do claim that Ecstasy represents a perspective sorely missing from today's movie-going experience, where such 'contemplative values are routinely dismissed as slow and boring.
The film itself is no masterpiece, though at times it reaches artistic heights, as in the beautifully composed beer-garden scene with its final crane shot rising to reveal the exquisite tableau below. The slow pans of the countryside with its pantheistic celebration of life, nature, and regeneration are also wonderfully expressed. These are the kind of scenes that don't overwhelm you, but instead-- given half-a chance-- accumulate quietly into an experience as memorable in its own way as the spine-tingling variety of a "Jaws".
On the other hand, the film is sometimes heavy-handed, as when Machaty piles on the imagery, particularly in the final, ode-to-labor sequence. It's hard to know what to make of this rather disruptive presence. Perhaps the symbolism has to do with the heroic dimension that hard work holds for the love-lorn hero and people in general-- a theme then being promoted by the influential Soviet cinema. Still, its presence here is rather tediously over-done.
Anyhow, I've got to admit that I tuned in initially to see the gorgeous Hedy LaMarr in the buff. But now I have to admit that in the process I also got a lot more than just a peek-a-boo romp in the woods.
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