One of the more popular erotic imports of the 1960s, this Swedish portrait of the femme fatale as sexual adventurer offers an astonishingly open-minded perspective on female sexuality, both for the time it was made and now. Based on the autobiographical novel by Agnethe Thomsen (writing as Siv Holm), it stars the oddly beautiful Essy Persson as Siv, whose...read more
One of the more popular erotic imports of the 1960s, this Swedish portrait of the femme fatale as sexual adventurer offers an astonishingly open-minded perspective on female sexuality, both for the time it was made and now. Based on the autobiographical novel by Agnethe Thomsen (writing as Siv Holm), it stars the oddly beautiful Essy Persson as Siv, whose transition from restrained church-musician to sexually subversive nymphet is almost obsessively tracked by director Mac Ahlberg's camera (Ahlberg later moved to Hollywood and forged a successful career as a cinematographer). Siv is introduced in her liberal present as she coyly parades about a city sidewalk in a virginal white dress. After negotiating an evening rendezvous with a new man, Siv relives the pivotal moments in her transformation as she waits in her apartment. Before her erotic awakening, Siv, a nurse, is a willing if unconvinced participant in her mother’s Swedish Pentecostal worship. But while religion leaves Siv numb, the thrilling sensation of masturbation awakens her to the possibility of earthly ecstasy, an experience Ahlberg sets to the music of her father’s violin. Unwilling to continue playing the dutiful daughter, Siv soon bucks tradition on the job as well; she rejects condemnation of her "female wiles" and much to the consternation of her fiance engages in the mutual seduction of an older patient. As Siv discovers the power and freedom in her sexual identity, she's unwilling to be possessed by any one man, and her newfound liberation propels her to a virtual slideshow of flings. The film’s simple but stylish aesthetics are a real treat, even if they can't ultimately compensate for a disappointingly thin plot. Persson is excellent in her debut role (she went on to make a series of similarly frank pictures), her eyes suggesting perpetual awe at her own physical attributes and their effect on men. But her character spirals into a series of wholly predictable choices that rule the film’s story line. In the end, the film is most compelling when seen in light of the labored progress of feminist discourse; it's an artifact from a time when the notion of a woman taking charge of her sexual life was both risque and revolutionary.
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