Sog.: dalla pièce A kék róka (La volpe azzurra, 1917) di Ferenc Herczeg. Scen.: Mauritz Stiller, Arthur Nordén. F.: Henrik Jaenzon. Scgf.: Axel Esbensen. Int.: Tora Teje (Irene), Anders de Wahl (Leo Charpentier), Karin Molander (Marthe), Elin Lagergren (madre di Irene), Lars Hanson (Preben Wells), Vilhelm Bryde (barone Felix), Torsten Hammaren (professor Sidonius). Prod.: Svensk Filmindustri. 35mm. L.: 1764 m. D.: 86’ a 18 f/s. B&W print with real tinting by Jan Ledecký
There are moments in Erotikon, this comedy that so brilliantly ushers in the 1920s with its humorous elegance and suave moral restlessness, there are moments in which one wonders: is this Tora Teje, who weighs up men from under slightly lowered eyelids, who throws back her neck when laughing, who smiles or despairs in the shade of her airy herbaceous hat, who reaches out her arm from which a sumptuous fur muff slides off, who is just as enchanting in velvet as she is in plissé, is this ironic Scandinavian diva perhaps quoting Lyda Borelli (a Borelli oddly thrown in the world of comedy), or is she just paving the way for such ladies as Marie Prevost, Irene Rich, Kay Francis of the Lubitsch to come? At that time, borelleggiare could actually be just a quote, maybe deliberate maybe not, while the inspiration that Stiller provided Lubitsch’s American work is unquestionable as well as architectural: it makes its way through the doors, the mirrors, the sheet music (the close up on the notes of “Jeg elsker dig” will appear again as “Ich liebe dich” in The Marriage Circle), the small suggestive statues, the sinuous wooden balustrades of this beautiful house in Stockholm, all there to design a high-class perimeter of desire.
Of course, prior to it are DeMille’s marital comedies of the 1910s, swept away by Stiller’s touch of Nordic modernity. If overseas, after a few turnabouts, it was firmly suggested to hold tight onto one’s own husbands and wives, here each fleeting, tender, shrewd desire can take more brazen paths: while Tora says a gentle farewell to a boring marriage, at home some ridiculous incest is about to take place. Erotikon would continue to have a long-term influence: although some critics disdain the connection, Bergman’s lessons in love seem to reflect the glow of Stiller’s craftsmanship, of that affectionate distance that lays bare the mechanical (or biological) nature of erotic plots. Take as one of the many possible examples the spirit behind Jarl Kulle’s promises in Smiles of a Summer Night: “I shall be faithful for at least seven eternities of pleasure, I shall remain faithful until the big yawn do us part” – an agreement that our sophisticated lady in velvet and plissé would easily accept. Wise and perspicacious as ever, someone put things in a more serious context: “The analysis of love, performed in a laboratory, produces an objective comedy about Swedish civil society” (Peter von Bagh).