The sexually explicit ‘Extase’, starring Hedy Lamarr, and its continuing connection with the Venice Film Festival

Posted on September 12, 2019


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Extase (Ecstasy), the 1933 Czech film by Gustav Machatý, made news at the Venice Film Festival for many reasons. One, the film was the pre-opening night event of the festival. It was part of the Classics section, and was screened a day before the festival officially began, on August 28. Two, the restored 4K digital copy of Extase won the award for best digitally restored film. But even without all this, Extase is an important film in the history of this festival. It was screened at the 1934 edition, and caused a storm because it was the first non-pornographic film to show a fully nude female (Hedy Lamarr, then called Hedy Kiesler, and not yet 20), and also the first film to feature said female in the throes of an orgasm. Later, Lamarr said the director tricked her into the nude scenes, which makes Extase a decidedly odd film to showcase in this #MeToo era.

Here’s how the “tricking” happened, as recounted in an article published in the December 1938 issue of Liberty magazine: “When Lamarr applied for the role, she had little experience nor understood the planned filming. Anxious for the job, she signed the contract without reading it. When, during an outdoor scene, the director told her to disrobe, she protested and threatened to quit, but he said that if she refused, she would have to pay for the cost of all the scenes already filmed. To calm her, he said they were using ‘long shots’ in any case, and no intimate details would be visible. At the preview in Prague, sitting next to the director, when she saw the numerous close-ups produced with telephoto lenses, she screamed at him for tricking her. She left the theater in tears, worried about her parents’ reaction and that it might have ruined her budding career.”

Continued at the link above.

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