(Bonds That Chafe)
Director: Mauritz Stiller
Production: Svensk Filmindustri; black and white, 35mm, silent; length: 5998 feet. Released 8 November 1920, Sweden. Filmed in Sweden, theater scenes shot in Royal Opera House, Stockholm.
Screenplay: Mauritz Stiller and Arthur Norden, from the play A Kék Róka by Ferenc Herczeg; photography: Henrik Jaenzon; production designers: Mauritz Stiller and Axel Esbensen; musical score which accompanies film: Kurt Atterburg.
Cast: Tora Teje ( Irene Charpentier ); Lars Hanson ( Preben ); Karin Molander ( Marthe, the niece ); Anders de Wahl ( Prof. Leo Charpentier ); Wilhelm Bryde ( Baron Felix ); Elin Lagergren ( Irene's mother ); Torsten Hammaren ( Prof. Sedonius ); Stina Berg ( Servant ); Gucken Cederborg ( Cook ); Vilhelm Berntsson ( Butler ); Bell Hedqvist ( Friend of Baron Felix ); John Lindlof ( Friend of Preben's ); Greta Lindgren ( Model ); Carl Wallin ( Furrier ); Carina Ari and Martin Oscar ( Ballet dancers ).
Idestam-Almquist, Bengt, Den Svenska Filmens Drama: Sjöström och Stiller , Stockholm, 1938.
Hardy, Forsyth, Scandinavian Film , London, 1951.
Waldenkranz, Rune, Swedish Cinema , Stockholm, 1959.
Beranger, Jean, La Grande Aventure du cinéma suedois , Paris, 1960.
Lauritzen, Einar, Swedish Film , New York, 1962.
Cowie, Peter, Swedish Cinema , London, 1966.
Werner, Gosta, Mauritz Stiller och hans filmer , Stockholm, 1969.
Klinowski, Jacek, and Adam Garbicz, editors, Cinema, The Magic Vehicle: A Guide to Its Achievement: Journey 1, The Cinema Through 1949 , Metuchen, New Jersey, 1975.
Potamkin, M. C., "The Golden Age of Scandinavian Film," in Cinema (London), September 1930.
Idestam-Almquist, Bengt, "The Man Who Found Garbo," in Films and Filming (London), August 1956.
"Mauritz Stiller," in Anthologie du Cinéma , vol. 3, Paris, 1968.
Combs, Richard, in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), November 1977.
Robertson, Jo Anne, "Mauritz Stiller," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), December 1977.
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By 1920 the artistic achievements of the Swedish cinema, under the inspired leadership of Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller, were universally recognized. Most of these films reflected the life of rural Sweden. Stiller, a cultured man, decided to make a film set in a sophisticated urban milieu. His scriptwriter, Arthur Norden, brought to his attention Ferenc Herczeg's play, A KéK Róka , which he and Norden adapted to their purpose, dropping any acknowledgement to the author. From its premiere at the Roda Kvarn Cinema in Stockholm on the 8 November 1920, its success was assured.
Stiller lavished attention on this film, building elaborate sets and commissioning a special exotic ballet for the theatre scenes which were shot in the Royal Opera House of Stockholm, with a host of society extras for an audience. The film reflected the fashionable life of the city and a modernity indicated by the inclusion of scenes with airplanes.
The story about a professor of entomology who is sustained in his work by his devoted niece while his neglected wife seeks consolation elsewhere seems more like the work of Noel Coward than Selma Lagerlöf, who contributed so much to the Swedish cinema. It is handled with the lightest of touches; the irony of the scene where the man who tries to reconcile the married pair becomes the wife's lover is reminiscent of Ernst Lubitsch. Stiller's stylish direction works well with his talented players. Tore Teje's delightful portrayal of the wife is witty, wise and worldly. It is in striking contrast with the peasant role she had played the previous year in Sjöström's Karin Ingmarsdotter . Karin Molander's charming performance as the young niece is equally effective; Torsten Hammaren's caricature of a dry old stick is inspiring; and Lars Hanson and Anders de Wahl maintains the elegant style of the film.
Erotikon helped create a new genre of social comedy, and attracted considerable attention in the movie world. Jean Renoir admired it very much; Lubitsch mentioned it as one of the best films he had ever seen and it may well have influenced his work from The Marriage Circle onwards; Chaplin would have seen it during his European tour and the style of A Woman of Paris may have been influenced by it. On the other hand, while admiring its freshness of approach, the socially conscious critic Georges Sadoul regretted that the social satire had not gone further, "There is no satiric intention in Erotikon ; the humor is gentle and pleasant, defensive rather than attacking . . . . we are far from Beaumarchais or even Marivaux."
Stiller never made another film like Erotikon , which is curious, for it represented his own outlook on life. His next great success was the monumental Gösta Berlings Saga , which introduced Greta Garbo to the world. The delicacy and subtlety of the acting and the gentle observation of human foibles make Erotikon a film that transcends its time and fashion.