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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 <email@example.com>
The world's first glimpse of a 19 year-old Hedy Lamarr occurs in the early moments of this 1930's treasure as she sweeps across the screen in an angelic wedding gown. This was to be the start of a legendary career. This was our glorious introduction to the most beautiful woman ever to grace the silver screen.
It is Eva's (Lamarr) wedding night and her older husband seems uninterested in her romantic advances. She retreats to the lonely bed and, in a beautiful scene, she fiddles with her wedding ring as the realization of her marital mistake overcomes her. The husband seems more interested in neatness and order than he does in love. Gustav Machaty uses gorgeous camera angles and pristine shot framing to capture Lamarr's considerable talent and beauty. With no words spoken in the early part of the film, she is able to grasp our sympathy, our hearts and our support. It is that combination that prepared the 1930's audiences for what they were about to see as the film unfolded. 'Ecstasy' was considered shocking for its time... Some thought it to be scandalous.
She returns home to her father's estate and files for divorce. The next day, she wakes with a complete sense of freedom and happiness. She just has to go outside and feel the freedom of the countryside and fresh air. Eva goes for a horseback ride and happens across a beautiful lake. And in one of the most famous scenes in film history, Hedy Lamarr became the first person to ever appear nude in a major film. Her frolic in the woods and her skinny-dipping adventure in the lake were legendarily scandalous. But the audiences couldn't stay away. As with many of today's movies, the controversy made it a must-see film.
Eva's mischievous adventure introduces her to a handsome young man who helps her find her horse, who had run off with her clothes. After an awkward meeting, they eventually fall for each other. Their first romantic rendezvous was almost as controversial as the nude scene, with its blatant waves of eroticism. However, Machaty does beautiful work in these romantic moments. Machaty creates one delightful moment, when Eva literally seems to sink into her new lover, using a gorgeous early camera trick.
It cannot be overstated how brave this performance was on Lamarr's part. Many might have presumed it was career suicide. Instead, it gained her worldwide fame and caught the eye Louis B Mayer, who signed her to a contract with MGM. There are some truly erotic moments in this film, even by today's raunchy standards. It is impossible to imagine how they were received in the 1930's. Again, Machaty was very clever with his imagery, leaving a lot to the imagination. But we all understand very well what we are seeing and it is supremely well done.
The meeting of Eva's former husband and her current lover is perhaps inevitable. However, the consequences of that meeting are not. The film takes a few unexpected turns in its final act and it all makes for a great story and a lovely debut on the grand stage of movie stardom for Hedy Lamarr.
I highly recommend this once controversial, now tame film and urge you to seek it out in its restored form on DVD. It is easily worthwhile, if only for the pleasure of seeing Hedy Lamarr. But the story is compelling too and the direction is ahead of its time. 'Ecstasy' is a memorable early treasure.
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