Sog.: Vitězslav Nezval. Scen.: Gustav Machaty, František Horky, Jacques A. Koerpel. F.: Jan Stallich. M.: Antonín Zelenka. Scgf.: Bohumil Heš, Štěpan Kopecký. Mus.: Giuseppe Becce, František Halas. Int.: Hedy Lamarr (Eva Hermann), Aribert Mog (Adam), Zvonimir Rogoz (Emile), Leopold Kramer (il padre di Eva), Karel Mácha-Kuča (avvocato). Prod.: Gustav Machatý per Elektafilm. DCP. Bn.
In the garden of the Excelsior that evening, you could hear every breath of the rapt audience, you could feel a chill running through the crowd.
(Michelangelo Antonioni, 1932, in his review of the Venice Film Festival)
A classic, underpinned by an emphatic score that accompanies the visual symphony of the film and seems today to add an old-fashioned charm, Extase has long been marked out by histories of cinema for its audacities (its liberating, naturalist approach to physical love, the nudity of the beautiful Hedy Lamarr). Today however, it is no longer this side of the film that enthrals the spectator. Watching Extase again, almost half a century after it was shot, reveals a lyrical film, both in its image and sound, which is built like a tragic poem, letting the images (and the music) speak above the few lines – often only one word – that make up the dialogue. The close-ups, imbued with symbolism and psychology, are privileged, indicating, for example, the differences between characters (Emil squashes a fly while Adam tenderly and respectfully moves a bumblebee), and lingering on the everyday objects that take significance (slippers, wedding rings, bridal flowers). The camerawork is very mobile, but moves slowly, accompanying the characters, and enveloping them, such as in the suggestive discovery of the beautiful Eve, first disappointed then blossoming. After the suicide of her former husband and before the lusty engineer’s fantasy, as he dreams of Eve’s return, a series of sequences of work, at odds with the soft rhythm of the film, are clearly inspired by the shots and editing of Soviet cinema. Aside from its historic interest and the pleasure of viewing, in a restored edition, a mythical film and a major work of erotic cinema, Extase is, for its great cinematography, its use of light and its cinematic language, an absorbing film to watch, over and over again.
Christian Bosséno, “Revue du cinéma”, n. 353, September 1980