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Akt-Skulpturen: Studienfilm für bildende Künstler

Film Review by Dean Duncan Apr 10, 2015

This naked woman is a complete professional, as is the naked man who subsequently joins her. They are confident, focused, purposeful. They know how to pose, and that’s precisely, exclusively what they are doing. It is likely that this film was distributed with at least some degree of cynicism, likely that it was viewed pruriently as well. But distribution and reception apart, with regard to the production itself, there’s no exploitation at all. Bending, sitting, standing—what we have here is a combination of Edweard Muybridge and Edgar Degas, and it’s lovely.

Is it innocent? Would you want your kids to see it? We should acknowledge that there’s always a degree of sensuality in this kind of thing. But this kind of thing, and certainly in this particular film, sensuality is subordinated, balanced by other considerations. Structure, musculature, movement—actual, or intimated—the miracle of the organism! This is precisely what you’d get at the most circumspect art studio, and in the most decorous of life drawing classes.

Just as cool: these figures are posing on a fabulous rotating apparatus. The camera that records is completely static, but the wheel turns for each composition. The effect is quite electrifying, something like the tracking shot that Georges Méliès contrived when he brought the moon to his camera in 1902. Cinema? Absolutely! The effect put me in mind of the luminous (controversial!) Greece-to-Germany opening of Leni Reifenstahl’s Olympia (1936). Could she have known this old relic? Whether or not she did, I would be glad to have my own kids exposed to the exaltingly modest sensuality of either one.

Having said that, and on the subject of decorum or sensual subordination: the Rape of the Sabine Woman and the Ariadne compositions might still be pushing things just a tad.