After seeing the opening performance at the Fine Arts Theatre on Wednesday night of "Ecstasy," the much talked-of Czechoslovakian motion picture, this department is quite puzzled over the storm of moralistic indignation which the film has aroused. Produced several years ago and presented frequently in Europe, it has yet to enjoy a regular run in America and it is assumed that the inhibiting factor has been fear of censorship. So intriguing was the delectable advance whisper that the opening night attracted a large and urgent through, forcing the management to give an extra performance to satisfy the demands of an art-seeking populace.
Very similar in theme to "The Virgin and the Gypsy," "Lady Chatterley's Lover" and other of D. H. Lawrence's explorations into the libido, "Ecstasy" tells the story of a beautiful young girl in search of an outlet for her emotional cravings. In no sense obscene or pornographic, if treats this study with the frank and simple directness which seems to be anathema to a section of the American mind. Unlike certain of the contemporary dramatists who seem to find frankness synonymous with sordidness it tells its elemental tale with scenic beauty and dramatic vigor. For treatment of such a theme it is artistically essential to develop an intimacy with the heroine's character, and in so doing the film has apparently insulted "good taste." Instead of the mechanical, stop-watch kisses of Hollywood pictures it allows its actors to demonstrate the full power of their emotional torrents not by suggestive allusion, but through the skillful clarity of their dramatic expression.
As a screen drama "Ecstasy" suffers in American eyes from a slowness of pace and a naivete which make it heavy at times. It has considerable photographic beauty and a very satisfying musical score. The chief merit of the picture, however, must be attributed to the compellingly intense performance of Hedy Kiesler in the central role of the young girl. There is a roughness and occasional incoherency which are probably the result of virtuous scissors.
"Ecstasy" is not an exciting film, but it is a direct and frequently skillful treatment of a theme which is rarely allowed to occupy the place which it deserves in traumatic expression.