21 December 2017

Erotikon (1920)

One of the highlights of the Scandinavian silent cinema is the Swedish film Erotikon/Bounds That Chafe (1920) directed by Mauritz Stiller for Svensk Filmindustri. Erotikon surely pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable on the screen in 1920. The stars of this comedy-drama of sexual intrigue are Karin Molander, Anders de Wahl, Lars Hanson and Tora Teje.

Karin Molander in Erotikon
Swedish postcard by Nordisk Konst, Stockholm, no. 1097/1. Photo: publicity still for Erotikon/Bounds That Chafe (Mauritz Stiller, 1920) with Karin Molander.

Anders de Wahl and Karen Molander in Erotikon
Swedish postcard by Nordisk Konst, Stockholm, no. 1097/2. Anders de Wahl and Karin Molander in Erotikon/Bounds That Chafe (Mauritz Stiller, 1920).

Obsessed with the sexual life of bugs


Erotikon is a Swedish romantic comedy film directed in 1920 by Mauritz Stiller, starring Tora TejeKarin Molander, Anders de Wahl and Lars Hanson. The screenplay by Stiller, Gustaf Molander and Arthur Nordén was based on the 1917 play A kék róka by the Hungarian author Ferenc Herczeg.

It was one of the most expensive Swedish films of the silent era. Miguel Pendás at Silent Film: "A 1919 merger that resulted in Svensk Filmindustri meant that the company now distributed and exhibited films as well as produced them. The critical and financial success of Victor Sjöström’s Terje Vigen (1917) led to a change in policy. Studio head Charles Magnusson decided to make fewer films, each with stronger production values and bigger budgets. He also wanted films with more international appeal. Stiller was presented with an unprecedentedly large budget for Erotikon. He used it wisely."

Erotikon revolves around the romantic entanglements of five stock characters from drawing room comedy. First there is the clueless husband, entomology professor Leo Charpentier (Anders de Wahl), who is obsessed with the sexual life of bugs. His niece Marthe (Karin Molander), the flirtatious ingenue, is secretly in love with her uncle.

The professor's restless wife Irene (Tora Teje ) is courted by two suitors. Irene loves baron Felix (Vilhelm Bryde), a womanising aviator (the pretentious flyboy). Her husband's best friend, the handsome sculptor Preben Wells (Lars Hanson), loves Irene, and actually she likes this Bohemian artist too. Carpentier doesn't oppose his wife's flirts as he likes somebody else too...

IMDb: "Stiller obviously delights in teasing his audience with each scandalous plot twist and every salacious leer, and the result is a deliciously subversive comedy that was very much ahead of its time."

Alide Liddel at IMDb: "Erotikon has been called a precursor to Lubitsch, with its part-satiric, part-romantic look at the upper-classes, the games they play, the roles they assume. Like Lubitsch, Stiller uses the techniques of farce, where the geometry of plot and the manipulation of space leads to complications, misunderstandings, provocations, accidents. The use of the Charpentier hallway, for instance, with its angular spaces; and the emphasis on fetishised detail (Irene's gloves and feet; the 'striptease' in front of the sculptor when she removes her coat) are all to be found in Lubitsch."

Erotikon premiered in Sweden on 8 November 1920. It became a commercial success and was sold to 45 markets abroad.

Anders de Wahl and Karin Molander in Erotikon
Swedish postcard by Nordisk Konst, Stockholm, no. 1097/3. Anders de Wahl and Karin Molander in Erotikon/Bounds That Chafe (Mauritz Stiller, 1920).

Tora Teje and Lars Hanson in Erotikon
Swedish postcard by Nordisk Konst, Stockholm, no. 1097/6. Tora Teje and Lars Hanson in Erotikon/Bounds That Chafe (Mauritz Stiller, 1920).

Sources: Miguel Pendás (San Francisco Silent Film Festival), Alide Liddel (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

No comments: