Erotikon (1920)

“I claim my rights as a deceived husband.”

The 1920 silent film Erotikon is a fairly standard tale of domestic turbulence involving a staid professor Carpentier (Anders De Wahl) and his lively young wife, Irene (Tora Teje). The story is laced with elements that hint at the impossibility of maintaining monogamous relationships, and this is underscored by the film’s alternate title, Bounds That Chafe.

The first few scenes establish the relationship between the professor and his wife. While he lectures about the sex-lives of beetles (“Generally two females will suffice, but one is never enough”), she takes to the air with a dashing baron. But is Irene attracted to the baron or is she in love with her husband’s best friend, sculptor Preben Wells (Lars Hanson)? And just what is Preben’s relationship with a beautiful model?

This tale of marital woes, laced with jealousy, extravagance, adultery, and mutton and cabbage casserole, is a treasure for silent film fans. Although not as riveting as the Louise Brooks, Valentino films, it’s still a deliciously witty tale. The essence of the main characters leaps from the screen, and Irene’s delightful, playful, fey personality is given full scope as she treads lightly through the home of her very unsuitable husband. One of the film’s highlights is an evening at the ballet attended by the Professor, Irene, and Preben. The exotic ballet is marvelous, and as the tale of adulterous love plays out on the stage, both Preben and Irene are aware that the performance reflects their forbidden feelings. The professor, whose tastes run to far less exotic fare, remains blissfully unaware of the situation brewing under his very eyes.

Special thanks to Kino for once again restoring a silent film. The print is a little damaged in spots, but who’s complaining? DVD extras: “Rediscovering Sweden: Peter Cowie Introduces the Films of Mauritz Stiller.”

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