Erotikon (1920)

Interesting to see this after those Lubitsch films, cos Lubitsch himself claimed Erotikon as an influence upon his own later films. That said, he must’ve seen something in it that I didn’t, cos I don’t know that I see much connection with his films. Indeed, it’s a curious comedy that gives off so few signs of actually being one; even a failed comedy usually behaves in a way that you know you’re supposed to laugh at it even if you can’t actually make yourself do so. This one I didn’t know what to do with. If it were a Peter Greenaway film it might be called The Cook, the Professor, His Wife and Her Lover(s), to sum up the romantic situation depicted; Irene is the wife of the Professor, kind of bored in that situation and so she takes up with a flyboy baron on the side but her heart really seems directed at Preben the sculptor. The professor, meanwhile, seems to have a thing for his niece, Marte. She’s the cook in the above equation (mutton and cabbage casserole?). All the ingredients for a romantic comedy (well, OK, so there’s something more creepy than romantic about the professor’s fascination with the niece), and yet, as a few reviews I’ve read (e.g.) observe, it doesn’t really play like what we’d recognise as a romantic comedy. Much of the film’s surprisingly big budget seems to have been spent on the rather epic “ballet-fantasy” theatre scene, depicting an on-stage drama which comments symbolically on the film’s own romantic… whatever the hell shape it is, and which also kind of shows how the film itself could otherwise be read as a drama. Reviews have complained about the Kino DVD’s score, and I tried playing something more jolly, but it didn’t make the film seem any lighter somehow. An odd beast that I’m not sure I particularly liked, but to be honest I’m not really sure what I thought of it at all…

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