“ECSTASY”— An Erotic Thriller


An Erotic Thriller

Amos Lassen

Strand Releasing’s “Ecstacy” was originally titled “A Thought of Ecstasy”. It is an erotic thriller about a  journey through America in the year 2019 with a man in search of a lost love and a woman lost in the yearning for retribution as well as a country paralyzed by a heat wave and torn by mistrust and paranoia. A 20-year-old diary, arouses the desire to waste and that love is immortal, seduction is inevitable and revenge is irresistible. It is directed by and stars RP Kahl, Ava Verne, Lena Morris and Deborah Kara Unger.

We witness Copulating bodies in the sand, half-naked women in diffusely lit rooms and rides over sheer endless streets. The film is filled with images that elude unambiguous interpretation, initially hovering arbitrarily and intangibly in space. RP Kahl tells of a search for past love and places himself at the center of his story, which eschews conventional narrative patterns. We are taken to places where Kahl wants to tell about desire and longing, about being lost and the eternal search.

There is a definite preference for naked skin but slow images rely too much on a pull that is not fully sustained. Between dark rooms and bright sunlight Kahl rarely finds moments that remain in his head. What wants to be provocative and wild loses itself more and more in diffuse repetitions. The work is too tame for porn, too tense for a thriller and too empty for an art film yet we can see this indecision as a strength, as a film that consciously takes on these issues and subverts. And yet, above all, the impression remains that RP Kahl has lost in the search itself, in his intoxication of images that gradually loses its effect.

Nonetheless, “Ecstasy” has a certain fascination in its overambition, even though it is only the consequence of RP Kahl’s bringing his vision to the screen. There is no sign of compromise, no confession to the audience. Perhaps the very existence of this work is necessary to counterbalance all those endlessly enumerated and embarrassingly scheming sex films. That he too is not very successful, is probably buried in the matter itself. The associations are left behind, leaving behind images that are nothing more than images. Raw and fragile, anarchistic and poor in content – what is missing is an attitude. “Ecstasy” does not fail to have an effect and this is seen in the controversy it triggers.

Kahl once again revolves around himself in his third feature film. What fascinates as a cinematic experiment never unfolds the potential that makes it daring Deliberate provocation robs ” Ecstasy” of its effect.

The first scenes show a drive into the night. A beginning that immediately sets characters that reminds of countless film noirs. We follow Frank, a not very young man from Germany, who gets caught in the gap between his own past and the longing for a future, which is repeatedly drawn by reminders of their own past and past memories that he confuses with the present. Flash-like flashbacks and photographically precise sceneries turn the film into a topography of atmospheres in which moods superimpose events.

The journey of the film takes off in a city of cars, concrete and metal, and then finds its vanishing point in the desert of Death Valley, a space in which every feeling sooner or later seems like erased and abstracted everything in the matter of course of the grains of sand and is canceled. Frank comes to his personal zero point, and finds the “ecstasy” of the title. This is why a night trip becomes so, although a large part of the following pictures are bathed in glaring light, in a very bright sunshine and the film noir situation turns around. Frank is looking for a lost love. The trigger becomes a twenty-year-old diary whose words always talk to Frank and  works like the voice of a narrator. Frank seeks depth, desire and finds it in the radiant flurries of Death Valley.

This is an erotic thriller in which we see violence, sadomasochism and some sexually explicit scenes. It is erotic because we see women and men naked often and there is sex. But the women in this film are always imaginary, they exist in the head of the main character and thus in the mind of the audience: a pirate bride with eyepatch, a prostitute, a femme fatale, a fortune teller. This road movie trip is also a kind of science fiction, because it plays with the newer themes of this genre, with dystopia and paranoia. 

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