The digital restoration of Extase

22 August 2019

Introducing

The digital restoration of Extase

Introducing

The digital restoration of Extase

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Extase by Gustav Machatý, a film whose display of nudity provoked a scandal at the Second Venice Film Festival in 1934, has been selected for the pre-opening event of this year’s IFF in Venice. The screening will mark the world premiere of the film’s digital restoration in 4K, carried out by the Národní filmový archiv, Prague with the aim of presenting a Czech version of the film that is as close as possible to that shown at Venice in 1934.

Extase is one of the films that features in every handbook and overview of the history of cinema, though not necessarily because of its artistic qualities. Rather, it is usually associated with the scandal it provoked at the Venice Film Festival in 1934 that involved, among others, Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini. Our main goal, however, was to show the film in its original glory, albeit in digital format, something that required extensive historical research, the tracking down of the best source material for digitisation and, above all, looking for a period-appropriate visual and audial rendition. This has been made possible not only by the expertise of our archivists and restorers but also by close cooperation with several other archives“ says Michal Bregant, director general of the Národní filmový archiv, Prague about the film’s restoration.

Gustav Machatý’s Extase, made in 1932, is one of the most ambitious Czech films of the 1930s. The picture catapulted its star, the then eighteen-year-old Hedy Kiesler, to global fame. As a result, even though she subsequently appeared in Hollywood films as Hedy Lamarr, she has always been remembered chiefly for her role in Extase. With the assistance of his cinematographer Jan Stllich, Machatý turned the straightforward story of a torrid love affair between Eva and Adam, a young engineer – though she is newly married to the older Emil – into an extravagant visual celebration of passion filled with symbols and metaphors. The story is told primarily through imagery, relying on a minimum of dialogue, while nearly the entire film is accompanied by music of one of the most in-demand film composers of the period, Giuseppe Becce. The picture was made in Czech, German and French versions, each with a slightly different cast, which opened the doors to film screenings in France, Germany, Great Britain, and the USA as well as a a range of countries across South America, Africa and Asia.

The digital restoration by the highly regarded Italian studio L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna was made possible by the British Film Institute, Cinémathèque16, Cinémathèque Suisse, CNC, the Danish Film Institute, Filmarchiv Austria, Gaumont, and the Slovak Film Institute, who loaned film material and contributed to the extensive research needed. A donation from Milada Kučerová and Eduard Kučera funded the digital restoration by the Národní filmový archiv, Prague in cooperation with the Karlovy Vary IFF.

The international relaunch of Gustav Machatý’s Extase will take place on the eve of the opening of the festival, on 27 August 2019, in the Sala Darsena. A Czech cinema release is scheduled for early 2020.

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