Ekstase: GSFF Review

Ekstase: A montage of scenes from European silent films exploring the stereotype of women on the verge of insanity. The film displays the women as captives in a continuous cycle of symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

The rhythm of this 12 minute film is mesmerising. These textbook cases of ‘hysteria’ have the women acting out each stage to excess. Though it’s important to know that the textbook is from the late 1800s and is mostly horseshit. 

Director Marion Kellman (Endre Tót – I’m glad if I’m happy, 2017) was inspired by Professor Jean-Martin Charcot’s experiments on hysteria at the Salpêtrière. A powerful yet controversial figure at the time, though you may be more familiar with his associates Tourette and Freud.



Charcot was a doctor who did as much for mental health as discredited ex-physician Andrew Wakefield did for vaccination. By this I mean that even though their arguments have been thoroughly debunked, their effects are long-lasting and damaging to society.

Charcot held that hysteria had four distinct stages, always in the same order, all very expressive and verging on the erotic. Performances were staged for enraptured audiences. This was an absolute gift to early filmmakers.

Visually dramatic in exactly the right way for silent films, we witness women swooning and contorting themselves in the presence of level-headed medical men. Such damaging misogynistic propaganda was produced to satisfy the male gaze. 

However, the films are not simply artefacts of the silent era. These tropes continue to the present day, sometimes subtly, sometimes just as outlandish. Women: mysterious and unpredictable, wild yet fragile, must be tamed or restrained by rational men.

Examples include, but are in no way limited to: Metropolis; A Streetcar Named Desire; Sunset Boulevard; the Indiana Jones franchise; Fatal Attraction; anything by Darren Aronofsky; anything by Lars Von Trier…

In Lieu of a trailer for Ekstase, here is Every Instance of Kate Capshaw Screaming in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 

Ekstase is fun but with a bitter aftertaste. Marion Kellman’s video essay is a lesson in propaganda from a century ago, yet some things don’t change. In 2020 big business, government, and media corporations all know: You can take any falsehood and make it true through repetition.

Ekstase was Screened at Glasgow Short Film Festival 2020


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Esme Betamax is a writer and illustrator. Often found in the Cube Microplex. Favourites include: I ♡ Huckabees, Where the Buffalo Roam, Harold & Maude, Being John Malkovich and In the Shadow of the Moon.

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